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k «•■> 

2008 • vbl?33 

^ournal f /=^iynagogue'Mwiic^ 


EDITOR: Joseph A. Levine 


Rona Black, Gershon Freidlin, Geoffrey Goldberg, Charles Heller, 
Kimberly Komrad, Sheldon Levin, Laurence Loeb, Solomon Mendel- 
son, Neil Schwartz, David Sislen, Sam Weiss, Yossi Zucker 

The Journal of Synagogue Music is published annually by the Cantors As- 
sembly It offers articles and music of broad interest to the hazzan and other 
Jewish professionals. Submissions of any length from 1,000 to 10,000 words 
will be considered. 


All contributions and communications should be sent to the Editor, 
Dr. Joseph A. Levine— — as a Word docu- 
ment, with a brief biography of the author appended. Musical 
and/or graphic material should be formatted and inserted within 
the Word document. 

Footnotes are used rather than endnotes, and should conform to the fol- 
lowing style: 

A - Abraham Idelsohn, Jewish Liturgy (New York: Henry Holt), 1932: 244. 

B - Samuel Rosenbaum, "Congregational Singing;" Proceedings of the 

Cantors Assembly Convention (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary), 

February 22, 1949:9-11. 

Cover design after "and there was light" stained-glass window by George Rattner, The Loop Synagogue, 
Chicago. Layout by Prose & Con Spirito, Inc. Printing by Replica. 

© Copyright 2008 by the Cantors Assembly, ISSN 0449-5128 

^^i&^^ f ^^^nagogue7Mmic^^ 

Vol. 33 •Fall 2008 


Issue of the High Holidays: How They Affect 

American Synagogue Practice All Year Round 5 


Max Kadushin and the Distinctive Liturgy of the 

Yamim Ha-Nora'im 9 

Saul P. Wachs 

The Story of the Akedah—A Critical Reading 18 

Eliezer Steinman 

A Psychoanalytical Perspective on Abraham, Isaac and the Altar: 
Implications for Who We Are and How We Change 23 

Dennis G. Shulman 

Reading Liturgy through the Spectacles of Theology: 

The Case of U-n'taneh Tokef 46 

Neil Gillman 

R'shuyot for the Sh'lVah Tsibbur— Customs and Melodies 59 

Akiva Zimmermann 

Lower Extensions of the Minor Scale in Ashkenazic Prayer Music, 
with Emphasis on High Holidays and Festivals 80 

Boaz Tarsi 

The Hidden Subdivisions of S'lihot 108 

Joseph A. Levine 

The Liturgy of Yom Kippur and Rosh HaShanah — 

Similarities and Differences 140 

Hayyim Kieval 

The Kol Nidre— At Least 1200 years Old 153 

Johanna Spector 

Ad Yom Moto: Life's a Game? 158 

Gershon Freidlin 


The Day of Atonement 161 

Sampson Raphaelson 


Aaron Blumenfeld's Setting of Ps. Tl—Adonai OH V'-Yish'i 173 

Gleaned from Many Sources 


Penitential Torah Reading in Ashkenazic Practice 178 

Gleaned from Many Sources 


Future of the Feher Jewish Music Center 188 

Juval Shaked 

The Khazntes 188 

Gershon Freidlin 

Perele Feig, an Unsung European Khaznte, Israeli Hazzaniyot 188 

Akiva Zimmermann 

Sephardi Influences on Ashkenazic Liturgy in London 190 

David R. Prager 

Launching of the European Academy for Jewish Liturgy 190 

Jaclyn Chernett 

Music of the French Synagogue 191 

Arthur Bergen 

Comments on Jewish Life in Germany 192 

Daniel Katz 

Sh'ki'at ha-hammah in the Land of the Midnight Sun 195 

Gregory Yeckerson 


Notes on the History and Origins of the Music of the 

Anglo-Jewish Synagogue Tradition 197 

Daniel Tunkel 

Nothing New Under the Sun: What's Still Wrong 

with Our Synagogues? 209 

Shoshana Brown 

How My Being in the High Holiday Choir Turned Me into 

a Shul Goer 216 

Raymond P. Scheindlin 

A " V'-Ne'emar" Boy Remembers 224 

Garrett Field 


Yearning for Compassion: Sol Zim's Musical Machzor 

for Rosh HaShanah 226 

Jaclyn Chernett 

Excerpts of Moshe Ganchoff ; s Recorded High Holiday Services ♦ ♦ ♦ 229 

David B. Sislen 

Meir Finkelstein's Orchestrated Ne'ilah Service 232 

Sheldon Levin 

A Fusion of Traditions — Liturgical Music in the 

Copenhagen Synagogue, 

by Jane Mink Rossen & Uri Sharvit 234 

Charles Heller 


(1) Emanuel Rubin & John H. Baron's Music in Jewish 
History and Culture 237 

Jack Chomsky 

(2) Charles Heller's What to Listen for in Jewish Music 241 

Robert S. Scherr 



Shomeir Yisra'eil Slihot Liturgy 

after Yehudah Leib Glantz, 1947, 1965 244 

Uv'-Shofar Gadol Kalonymus ben Meshullam 

after Yair Rosenblum,1998 245 

U-Kh'tov U-Hayyim/ High Holiday Amidah 
V'-Khol Ha-Hayyim after Dudu Shani, 2006 252 

Ya'aleh Kol Nidre Night liturgy 

after a Folk tune, 1948 253 

Sh'ma Koleinu Yom Kippur liturgy 

after Dudu Shani, 2006 254 

Pit-hu Lanu Neilah Liturgy 

Beny Z. Maissner, 1995 255 


^ditp r= \ B§ 

Issue of The High Holidays: How They Affect American 
Synagogue Practice the Rest of the Year 

In his landmark study of High Holiday liturgy (from which a chapter is ex- 
cerpted in this Journal) Hayyim Kieval states that the Torah, 

explicit in its description of the worship of the tenth day, Yom HaKippurim, 
is silent about any connection between it and the first day of the seventh 
month, aside from their calendrical proximity and similar sacrifice 
offerings (Numbers 29: 1-11). This reticence is remarkable in view of the 
fact that throughout talmudic literature, and especially in the liturgy of the 
synagogue, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are represented as integral 
parts of one whole. 1 

Rabbi Kieval saw how the solemnity of the Day of Atonement gradually 
flowed backward in time onto "the original festive joy of the biblical first day 
of the seventh month" 2 and ultimately engulfed the interval between those 
two separate events, which was turned into the Ten Days of Penitence. 3 This 
despite the absence of any direct mention of penitence in the matbei 'a prayers 
of Rosh HaShanah. Each of these two Holidays — before being raised to "High" 
status— was unique unto itself: sui generis. 

The same may be said about all 5.5 million of us who declared ourselves 
"Jews by Choice" on various national population surveys taken during the 
past decade in the United States. 4 Living in a democratic society, Americas 
Jews enjoy doing their own cultural thing. That extends to religion as well, 
claimed the late historian Arthur Hertzberg. 

1 Hayyim (Herman) Kieval, The High Holidays, David Golinkin & Monique 
Susskind Goldberg, editors (Jerusalem: The Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies), 
2004: 232. 

2 Numbers 10: 10; Nehemiah 8: 9-10. 

3 Kieval, op. cit, p. 233; BT Rosh HaShanah, 17b 

4 National Population Surveys were taken by: Barry Kosman (New York: Council 
of Jewish Federations, 1990); Sidney Goldstein (New York: City University of New York, 
1993); Gary Tobin (Waltham, Massachusetts: Brandeis Institute for Community and 
Religion, 1997). 

The immigrants wanted to give to their Jewishness the aroma of the 
religious tradition and of folk memory, but on the condition that 
they could decide on what they wanted to keep and remember. 5 

And what did they remember — those sweatshop laborers who could never 
observe the Shabbos of their childhood in a six-day work week whose official 
Sabbath was the Christian Sunday? They remembered Yom Kippur! It had 
"so sacred a resonance" wrote social critic Irving Howe, that the immigrant 
generation "felt that to go to shul then was to confirm one s identity as a Jew" 6 
The echoes of that sacred resonance could be heard all during the rest of the 
year, permeating the observance of every other liturgical occasion. 

From lack of awareness and an absence of accessible role models, our laity 
has been painting Weekday Arvit with the musical coloring of Erev Shabbat 
whenever asked to lead a Minyan in observance of a parent s yahrzeit. The 
prevailing nusah for Friday Night Bar'khu 7 — the hazzan s Call to Prayer — is 
actually a Slihah mode better suited to Erev Yom Kippur (Example 1. — words 
of Kol Nidre are parenthesized). 

Ba - r' - khu 

et A - do 


ha- m' - vo - rakh._ 

(V - KI - NU - SEI U-SH'VU- OT ) 

Example 1. Friday Night Bar'khu in a Slihah mode paraphrasing Kol Nidre. 

When offering glory to God in hymns like Yigdal 8 — "No unity like unto His 
can be, Eternal, unconceivable is He"— we sing it as well in the Forgiveness 
mode of Kol Nidre 9 (Example 2.). 




r f f f r 


&A m i r 

had v'-ein ya - hid k' - yi 




r r jlu 

(U - D' - ISH - - - - - T' VA- NA) 

Example 2. The glory hymn Yigdal, sung in the Forgiveness mode of Kol Nidre. 

5 Arthur Hertzberg. The Jews in America (NY: Simon & Schuster), 1989: 5. 

6 Irving Howe. World of Our Fathers (New York: Simon & Schuster), 1976: 191 

7 Sabbath Service in Song— Friday Evening ed., Gershon Ephros (New York: 
Behrman House), 1955: 20. 

8 Melody by Meyer Leoni (London, 1760), charted with folk-song parallels in 
Abraham Z. Idelsohn, Jewish Music (New York: Henry Holt), 1929: 222-224, line 6. 

9 Henry A. Russottos arrangement in Gershon Ephros, ed., Cantor ial Anthology 
vol. II (New York:\: Bloch Publishing), 1940: 6. 

And we blithely apply the Slihah mode to Friday night without causing the 
sky to fall or placing our first-born in danger of heavenly retribution. Because 
in our blissful unawareness we are deeply stirred— and often shaken— by a 
mismatch that only American Jews could have come up with. We say Mi 
Khamokha — Who is like unto You? Revered in praises, doing marvels — and 
we sing this laudation penitentially (Example 3.). 10 


hl, ii H i r I o m i J .. J m 

No - ra t' - hi - lot o - sei fe - leh. 

Example 3. Ending of laudatory Mi Khamokha sung in a penitential mode. 

We convert Gods triumph at the Reed Sea (Shirat HaYam; Exodus 15: 
11) to supplication, wailing this ecstatic paean to the ending of a melody for 
Ya 'aleh 11 (Let our pleading rise up at night) from the Slihot section of Kol 
Nidre Night: "May our forgiveness arrive at evening"(Example 4,) 

^m i r * j~j p i - m j i 


Example 4. Ending of Ya'aleh, from the Slihot section of Kol Nidre night. 

It's not only amateurs who spread High Holiday angst over the Sabbath 
liturgy. The two leading American cantorial schools have been teaching this 
nusah to generations of future career cantors for over half a century. This is 
evidenced in student material published by two world-class Traditional can- 
tors who lectured at the Hebrew Union College's School of Sacred Music, 
Adolph Katchko 12 and Israel Alter. 13 By furthering indiscriminate use of a 
mode heretofore reserved for penitential prayer we have let in daylight upon 
the magic that formerly surrounded the Days of Awe. 

10 From a staple of the so-called "Young Israel Tunes" repertoire, a body of 
congregational melodies introduced — from around 1920 on — by a national chain of 
Modern Orthodox synagogues that fostered worshipers' active participation through 
communal singing; notated from my recollection of this refrain as sung in the Young 
Israel Synagogue of Boro Park, Brooklyn, New York, ca. 1945. 

11 After Aron Friedmann, Schir Lisch'laumau (Berlin: Deutsch-Israelitischen 
Gemeindesbunde), 1901, no. .405-1. 

12 Adolph Katchko, Thesaurus of Cantorial Liturgy (New York: Hebrew Union 
School of Education and Sacred Music), 1952. 

13 Israel Alter, The Sabbath Service (New York: The Cantors Assembly), 1968. 

To help recapture the awe and wonder of our High Holidays we offer an 
array of articles that examine ASPECTS OF YAMIM NORA'IM from the 
preparatory S'lihot service (Jaclyn Chernett) to the anatomy of S'lihot sections 
throughout Yom Kippur (Joseph A, Levine), from the distinctive liturgies of 
Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur including the unique "Permissions" asked by 
cantors before each section of prayer (Saul Wachs, Hayyim Kieval and Akiva 
Zimmermann) to their connection with Yiddish theater (Gershon Freidlin), 
from psychoanalytical and literary views of the Akedah protagonists (Dennis 
G. Shulman, Eliezer Steinman) to a musicological analysis of High Holiday 
prayer mode extensions (Boaz Tarsi), from the theology of U-n'taneh Tokef 
(Neil Gillman) to the antiquity of Kol Nidre (Johanna Spector). 

A LITERARY GLIMPSE presents— almost in its entirety— The Day of 
Atonement, an early-20 th century short story by Sampson Raphaelson that 
launched "The Jazz Singer" on Broadway and as Hollywood's first talking 

D'VAR N'GINAH examines a challenging setting of Ps. 27—Adonai Ori 
V'-Yish'i— by contemporary composer Aaron Blumenfeld. 

D'VAR ICRPAH gives the background and transcription of Penitential 
Torah reading as gleaned from many sources including the classroom notes 
of Solomon Rosowsky, who taught cantillation at the Jewish Theological 
Seminary's Cantors Institute. 

MAIL BOX contains reaction to the Journal's 2007 issue and its feature 
section on the Khazntes, as well as reports on the current synagogue scene 
in France, Germany, England, and the former Soviet Union. 

REVIEWS cover recent High Holiday musical anthologies (Sol Zim) and 
recorded services (Moshe Ganchoff ) and settings (Meir Finkelstein), plus 
books on the Copenhagen Synagogues liturgical tradition (Jane Mink Rossen 
& Uri Sharvit), and the history and nature of Jewish Music (Emanuel Rubin 
& John Baron; and Charles Heller). 

Our 2008 MUSIC section offers six High Holiday settings by Israeli com- 
posers, one to celebrate each decade of the Jewish States existence. 

<U <U <U +,U *& *& 

Finally, we note the passing of Masha Benya (1932-2007), the most giving 
of Yiddish folk singers, best remembered for her 1956 collaboration with 
Sidor Belarsky in a WEVD radio series, Amol izgeven a mayse ("Once Upon 
a Time") 

Joseph A. Levine 



Max Kadushin and the Distinctive Liturgy of the 

Yamim ha-Nora'im 
by Saul P. Wachs 


Max Kadushin, one of the most creative scholars ever nurtured by the Con- 
servative movement, helped us to understand the rabbinic mind and the ways 
in which rabbinic Judaism modified the religion of Biblical Israel. 1 Two of the 
major tools with which he analyzed Rabbinic thought were "value concepts" 
and "emphatic trends." 2 

Value Concepts 

Value concepts are nouns that cannot be denotatively defined, that is, they 
have a range of meanings. For example, Kadushin found that the value-concept 
of f "IK T17 can refer to practical wisdom, good manners, moral behavior and 
sexual intercourse. 3 mill is another example of a value concept which has 
many referents. As the name implies, value concepts are not neutral, they are 
positive (e.g. 1DH ,nm ) or negative (e.g. tpffl IWTSW ,mi HTI3S), that is, they 
have both a cognitive and an evaluative component. While such terms exist 
in every language (e.g. democracy, love, courage, mensch), classical Jewish 
value concepts are always in Hebrew and therefore they were retained in all 
of the languages that Jews have spoken, including Yiddish and Ladino. Value 
concepts have a drive for concretization. Thus, for example, we concretize 
the value concept of HITQ by reciting a rD"Q; we concretize the value concept 

1 Max Kadushin, The Rabbinic Mind (New York: The Jewish Theological Semi- 
nary 1952). Max Kadushin, Worship and Ethics (Chicago: Northwestern University 
Press, 1964). For a readable summary of Kadushins ideas, see Theodore Steinberg, 
"Max Kadushin, Scholar of Rabbinic Judaism," unpublished doctoral dissertation, New 
York University, 1980. 

2 On "value concepts" see Worship and Ethics, Chapter one. On "emphatic 
trends, see Worship and Ethics, pp. 11-13. On "normal mysticism," see Worship and 
Ethics, pp 13-17. 

3 Ibid. Chapter three. 

of npl^ by giving 7lpl¥, etc. Finally, value concepts function as theological 
building blocks that are organically related. The meaning of any particular 
concept depends on its relationship to the other concepts. 4 

Emphatic Trends 

A second felicitous term used by Kadushin is "emphatic trends." By this, 
he means that the rabbis sometimes gave greater emphasis to certain ideas 
than is found in the Bible. Among these he includes love, the individual and 
universality. 5 

Normal Mysticism 

A third major term coined by Max Kadushin is "normal mysticism." Rabbinic 
Judaism did not validate poverty, asceticism, celibacy, personal isolation or 
the use of mind-altering substances, all of which have had a place in the way 
in which certain cultures seek to encounter the Divine. Normal mysticism, 
as Kadushin uses the term, refers to the belief of the rabbis that people could 
experience Gods presence and a sense of the transcendent in normal every- 
day experience. 6 Such moments can occur in prayer and the performance of 
Mitzvot, in study and the enjoyment of Gods world (which calls forth a TITO), 
and (according to one opinion, at least) even in the act of making love. 7 The 
experience of God s presence is a private experience and is therefore mystical 
in essence and it was not seen as limited to rabbis but was available to all. 8 

This article will briefly examine some aspects of the liturgy of the D^XHlin D*W 
in the light of Max Kadushin s ideas, plus an additional idea of my own: 

The Liturgy as a Censored Body of Ideas. 

From the time of Yavneh in the late 1 st century C.E., if not earlier, an attempt 
was made to protect mandated liturgy ( rfrsn W ODa) from heretical ideas. 
Possibly influenced by a model found in Deuteronomy (26: 1-11; a minutely 
scripted ceremony for offering first fruits upon entering the land), the rab- 
bis utilized liturgy as a way of teaching the basic ideas of (Pharisaic) Judaism. 

4 See on this ibid. pp. 2-3. Value concepts sometimes are found in the Bible 
though often not in noun form. Sometimes, they take on different meanings than their 
biblical meaning (e.g. aViy /ni ,03). 

5 Ibid. pp. 26ff. 

6 Worship and Ethics, pp. 13ff. 

7 Talmud Bavli, Berakhot 57b. 

8 Kadushin ibid. 


Particularly as other interpretations of Judaism circulated, the liturgy was 
utilized as a way of polemically combating ideas that were seen as inimical 
to Judaism as they understood and taught it. Thus, for example, two related 
Jltra, IX 1 TJ7N nmn and nBWH Tn^N mm offer a very different image of the 
human being than was taught (and continues to be taught) in some other 
religious and philosophical traditions. 

The Image of God: T»7H T\VK and QftW fiMbft 

According to Kadushin, two value-concepts are central to the rabbi s image 
of God. The first is EPftrn TlTtt, Gods love. 9 This quality of divinity is seen as 
dominant and it is attached to the Tetragrammaton, which is, of course, Gods 
most important name. This is based on a well known proof- text, which is re- 
cited many times during the mrP7Q. 10 The basic notion is that God recognized 
soon after the creation of the world, that the world cannot be governed by 
strict justice if it is to survive and so God introduced the quality of mercy, love 
and compassion. As is well known, the rules of EH7E are both very flexible 
and very strict. They are flexible in allowing for the free rein of imagination 
but very strict in requiring that Midrashic interpretations be rooted in the 
text. In this case, the interpretation is based on the idea that the name of 
God in the first chapter of Genesis is Elohim (which in rabbinic theology is 
connected to ]*H7\ riTft) while in chapter two God is referred to as Hashem 
Elohim D^am nTtt . fin DTfr is not a major concept in the liturgy of weekday, 
Shabbat, and the festivals, though it certainly has a role. 11 The emphatic trend 
that focuses our attention on D^ttm flTtt is reflected in the reluctance of the 
rabbis to directly attribute suffering and punishment to God, sometimes 
resorting to elaborate and convoluted ways of deemphasizing God s role 
without directly limiting a description of divine power. 12 

In general, we call upon Gods mercy and love rather than demanding 
justice. In this, the liturgy reflects the Midrash, with which it shares so many 
common elements. One striking example of the latter is found in the Midrash 
on Bereshit 18: 25, which turns Abrahams question— "shall not the Judge of 
all the earth deal justly?" — into a statement. The liturgy of the D^frmin n*W 

9 Ibid. p. 4 and passim. 

10 Exodus 34: 6-7 (truncated). 

11 As noted above, the divine name d^iVk which is part of nnnn and many other 
prayers is connected with "pin nra. 

12 Two examples of this are the use of indirect language in the middle section 
of the nDnn, nasratnKn nx nr t&r and the remarkable truncation of the proof- text for 
n^m riTtt, Exodus 34: 6-7. 


is different. While we reiterate our belief that God is merciful and forgiving, 
constantly repeating the mTtt mOT W1*7W during the recitation of mrP70, we 
also are made mindful of Gods role as sovereign and judge during the entire 
period of repentance. God is not only 1TQK but also US^frn "f?ftn. 13 

We begin the formal chanting of the 11Ti rr*7E? for mnw with the word 
*f?ftn which traditionally is treated musically with elaborate and elongated 
chanting. The {pftVB surrounding tik ^yp rtHD as well as those in the TiVW 
focus on God s majesty and power though they are not lacking in occasional 
references to divine mercy. 14 Rosh HaShanah is called flTi UV and so it is not 
surprising that the value concept of fin nTJO is given particular emphasis at 
this time. 

The Image of the Human Being 

The image of the human being in the liturgy recited during the year, in 
general is hopeful. To take one striking example, the liturgy with which we 
begin each JVinttf service, appears to be designed to heal the self-concept of 
the individual. With the exception of one passage from irp7K 'Ql Kin 15 , which 
includes the confessional formulas that Rabbi Yohanan and Mar Samuel 16 
recited during the service for Yom Kippur, the passages remind each indi- 
vidual of his or her own dignity. The first words of the day, ^K HTItt remind 
us of our ability to acknowledge and appreciate gifts of mind and heart, and 
of our relationship to God. The word ^ appears in one form or another no 

13 This change in emphasis is reflected in the alteration of the nurnn of bswb ronn 
(SiddurSim Shalom for Weekdays, ((New York: The Rabbinical Assembly, The United 
Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, 2002)) p. 39, 125, 144), which removes the soften- 
ing term of npTS. The na^nn ,asti;&n fVan combines both of the central images of God that 
make the liturgy of this period of the Jewish calendar distinctive. 

14 See for example, The High Holiday Prayer Book, ed. Morris Silverman (New 
York: the Prayer Book Press, 1939, henceforth referred to as the Silverman Mahzor), pp. 
61-66, 79, 82-88, 276, 280 and, of course ^pm runn. In the Mahzor for Rosh ha-Shanah 
and Yom Kippur, ed. Jules Harlow, 1983 printing, (henceforth referred to as the Harlow 
Mahzor), the ototq known as nnxr have been eliminated, (a questionable decision since 
in many congregations, the worshipers who appear for imrra? on the onrm orcr tend to 
be the people with strong davening skills). The Tiissn tint ,mcn on p. 132 and the etots 
on pages 136-143 reflect the same emphasis. 

15 118 (chapter 19, end) 

16 Talmud Bavli, Yoma 87b: "Master of the Universe"; and "Truly, we have sinned," 


fewer than twelve times in the DID nfr lectionary, 17 ~VP ~WR HDTQ, validates the 
body and the physical dimension of life; Hftltfl "TrfPK rDT3 validates the unique 
personality of the individual. 18 It is described as being pure. The intra-personal 
theory of human nature and the close covenantal relationship of the human 
being and God are made explicit in the words recited as part of the mrT7D 

—*p& H"um *p rmvnn. 

These passages are recited every day of the year; indeed, they are recited 
by pious Jews at home as part of the daily ritual of rising and are intended 
to create a certain frame of mind which combines self-respect and a keen 
awareness of the gifts of God. To quote Kadushin, "In most of the HIDID, the 
awareness of self is conceptualized through the concept of man..." 19 The value 
concept of DIN (which name in the Bible refers to Adam) in rabbinic thought 
refers to the human being. 20 

What is distinctive about the liturgy for the D^KTllTl D^ is the reiteration 
of an awareness of our fragility and the power of the yin "IF. In addition to 
the confessions of Rabbi Yohanan and Mar Samuel noted above, 21 there 
are many texts that stress our unworthiness and our inability to ask for 
Gods blessings based upon our deeds. Exemplars of this theme include 
the nntzn, 22 TOED TIKT, 23 and TOtttt ^m ^IH, 24 as well as tprfra TltlS and the 
various confessions that are repeated at each service of Yom Kippur (and 
during the miT^D recited prior to the EPXTUTl WTT). One of the best known 
D^DTD recited during these days, rpin HID]!, 25 reminds us of our fragility in 
graphic terms. "Mans origin is dust and his end is dust. He is like a clay vessel, 
easily broken, like withering grass... a vanishing dream). During the n^yi 
service, this awareness of human limitations reaches a climax in the prayer 7^ 
]mi nnx. 26 One almost feels the futility of JV7mp HDD in this text. All is futility 
and our sense of superiority to the beast is an illusion. Like the beast, we too 

17 In what might well be a unique case in the TITO, Psalm 95: 6 is rewritten from 
the plural to the singular in this prayer. 

18 The p^Dft in the letter 71 ending several words in the rD"Q makes it clear that 
the soul that is given is distinctive and specific to the individual 

19 Worship and Ethics, p. 285 note 39. 

20 In Rabbinic texts, Adam, is known as ]WK17\ D1K. 

21 See note 16. 

22 Harlow, p.132. 

23 Harlow, p.134 

24 Harlow, pp. 236, 532. 

25 Harlow, pp. 242 and 538. 

26 Harlow, pp. 714-716. 


are often ruled by passion and are overcome by desires that are (potentially) 


But there is another value concept that informs the liturgy of the D^KIll WW., 
which offers hope to us even as we acknowledge our unworthiness. This is the 
value-concept of TUWD. As far as we know, the concept of 7\1WT\ is a Jewish 
contribution to world culture. No other civilization in the ancient world had 
such a concept. 27 It was believed that for a god to change the divine inten- 
tion would be a case of lese majeste. In fact, such an act was actually illegal 
in some cultures. 28 

There is no possibility of 7UWT\ by Adam, Cain, the generation of Noah, or 
for that matter, Moses! The full text of Exodus 34: 6-7, makes it clear that God 
will not forgive sin. As pointed out by Jeffrey H. Tigay, the meeting ground 
between this view and a new view that (in rabbinic language) is called TIIWI), 
is the book of Jonah, which is the mtDDn for the afternoon of H1£PD UV. Jonah 
is the most successful prophet in Jewish history (he utters five Hebrew words 
and all of Nineveh repents!). 29 His response to his success is anger and dis- 
pleasure. These are evil people, the enemies of his people and they must be 
punished. The author, speaking through the voice of God, represents the new 
view, the one that becomes normative in Judaism. These people are also Gods 
children and many are innocent. If they have repented, then why should they 
die? The idea that we are not locked into destructive patterns ofbehavior; that 
people can change, was and remains radical. It underlies everything that we 
try to accomplish during the D^TGH WW and is one of the most important 
rationales for prayer in general. The thrust of many of the climactic prayers 
and biblical citations found in TiTVl makes it clear that Judaism believes God 
to desire our repentance and not our punishment. 30 

Normal Mysticism in the Liturgy 

27 See on this. Jeffrey H. Tigay, "The Book of Jonah and the Days of Awe," Conserva- 
tive Judaism, vol 38 (2), winter 1985-6 and Saul P. Wachs, Aleinw. Rabbinic Theology 
in Biblical Language," Conservative Judaism, vol. 42 (1), Fall, 1989. 

28 See, for example, inoN nVsa 8: 8. 

29 Jonah 3: 4 ("forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"). The rabbis 
see the repentance of the people of Nineveh as the paradigm of rrown. See mm twwb 
2: 1 and Worship and Ethics, p. 266-7 note 78. 

30 See, for example, nVnn nnx(Harlow, p. 716, 742) and bm trerDK ^rvhrn urn 1 ?** (Har- 
low, pp. 742-744, passim). 


One source of mystical experience is the human capacity to be moved by 
sound. Many religions seek to stimulate such experience through the recitation 
of mantras. Our liturgy is not lacking in opportunities for such experience. In 
particular, the texts connected to T!X H%V rD"Q are filled with "sound baths" 
that are centered in the use of rhyme, acrostic, alliteration, assonance and the 
use of pleonasms (i.e., excessive wordings). 31 In the T)TVLV of the D^lCTUn WW 
and in the D*W9 of the 7TPW there is a virtual explosion of these linguistic 
and literary devices that can engulf the listener in an awareness of the nu- 
minous. 32 In particular, the DTD, *pft DlZ?n exemplifies this feature of liturgy. 
When one examines the lines of this OTD 33 it is clear that the author is not 
so much teaching theology as expressing through the playing with sound a 
sense of awe in the contemplation of God s majesty and sovereignty. The OVS, 
TP^y ~|*7ft, found in the ^Dltt service of 7\W7\ EftCI 34 fits into the same category 
that I have chosen to refer to as a " liturgical sound bath." The radical surgery 
performed by the editors of Conservative liturgy on the CPEJPD of the festivals 
and the High Holidays has minimized the opportunity for people to achieve 
that sense of the numinous, i.e. Gods presence, that is mediated by envelop- 
ment in sounds that can touch the soul. 

The Role of tars 35 

UVB served and continues to serve many functions. It brought new music into 
the prayer experience. In its early period, it provided alternative versions of 
the statutory prayer texts. Later, it provided enrichment of these set texts. 
It also led to the development of new forms of Hebrew that allowed the lan- 
guage to grow and stretch its boundaries. As noted above, it also provided 
opportunities for worshippers to sense God s presence through envelopment 

31 See on this, Saul P. Wachs, "Some Reflections on Two Genres of Berakhah," 
Journal of Synagogue Music, vol. 22 (1-2), July/Dec. 1992, pp. 26-27. 

32 Silverman, pp. 61-66, 80-88; The Complete ArtScr oil Machzor: Rosh HaShanah, 
(Brooklyn, New York: Mesorah Publications Ltd., fifteenth impression, 1998, henceforth 
referred to as ArtScroll) pp. 268-276, 316-330. 

33 Silverman, pp. 87-88; ArtScroll, pp. 328-330. 

34 Silverman, pp.141-142; ArtScroll, pp. 478-480. 

35 For a general discussion of dts see the Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 13, pp. 
573-602; Ismar Elbogen, Jewish Liturgy, translated by Raymond P. Scheindlin (Phila- 
delphia: Jewish Publication Society, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1993) 
pp. 167-184. 


in the sounds of the sacred tongue of the Jewish people. But there was one 
other role that DT>9 was destined to play in the liturgy. It also allowed ideas 
that were not seen as appropriate for the nV'Dn *7E? 03/3 (required prayer texts) 
to be included in the service. I offer one example. HftirD run *0 is one of the 
most beloved of all the WWB recited during 1WD DT*. Set to music for ]in and 
choir, it is also a welcomed opportunity for congregational song, particularly 
during its refrain, nr 1 ? ]sn "wi uin rmdb. 

What is the message of this poem? We are nothing but clay in the hands of 
the potter; cloth in the hands of the draper. We say to God in effect, "What 
do you expect from us; we are the way You made us!" A comforting idea on 
the day of final judgment, it does not seem consistent with the idea of per- 
sonal autonomy that lies at the very heart of judgment. While arguing that 
we are without the power to shape our lives is not exactly a major theme of 
the High Holydays, it does offer a brief respite from the ongoing drumbeat 
of confession and acknowledgement of personal responsibility that shapes 
the ethos of the Day of Atonement. 


Max Kadushin, perhaps more than anyone else, has provided us with a key 
to the workings of the rabbinic mind. His terms for rabbinic Value Concepts 
give us a language in which to understand the values and ideas that are stated 
or embedded in the liturgy. The majority of these concepts function as stimuli 
to ethical behavior. Our praise of God is an invitation to emulate the Divine 
attributes and a promise that this is possible if we make a determined effort 
to do so. Through the binary concepts of WW1 JITtt and *pin IlTft we are 
reminded that there are consequences to our behavior but that God also 
understands the forces that struggle within the human psyche. The value 
concept of tPftW ITD^JD reminds us through the metaphor of Kingship, that 
our ultimate loyalty must be to God; that all other loyalties are subservient 
and that the ultimate definition of goodness is obedience to Gods will. The 
value concept of 712WU offers us the promise that God s laws allow for human 
growth and change and challenges us to devote ourselves to the fulfillment 
of that task. 

Kadushin s idea of Emphatic Trends teaches that the rabbis placed greater 
emphasis upon certain ideas and values than does the text of the Bible. One 
of these is the stress on universality; another, on the individual and a third on 
WfiTTl rrPB. All of these, while important throughout the year, assume positions 
of centrality for us as we attempt to use the window in time provided by the 


Ti2WT\ W TMW$ to take stock of our lives, re-center ourselves and seek to use 
the time granted to us by the Almighty, to come closer to the ideal of TlWYlp 
that is the highest goal of our tradition, our faith and our community. 

Finally, the idea of Normal Mysticism reminds us that a sense of God s 
presence is available if we are willing to take the time and invest the energy 
to seek that experience. Prayer services that see efficiency of schedule as the 
ultimate criterion of effectiveness rarely move people to the depths of religious 
experience. Intellectual preparation for worship through study of the liturgy, 
beautiful music and the opportunity to share in the singing of the prayers, 
teaching and preaching that challenges the mind and inspires the heart-; 
*VOP1 *W t 7&, to make of the prayer experience an opportunity for ordinary 
people to know that there is more to reality than what can be counted and 
weighed and measured and defined, to help them achieve an experience of 
Normal Mysticism, fi^n vr pi . 

Dr. Saul P. Wachs is the Rosaline B. Feinstein Professor of Liturgy and Education, 
and Chair of the Education Department at Gratz College. A Graduate of the Jewish 
Theological Seminary s Cantors Institute, he has conducted High Holy Day services at 
Congregation Kehillath Israel of Br ookline Massachusetts since 1 975. He has authored 
over seventy publications and has lectured in more than four hundred communities 
on five continents. He expresses his profound appreciation to Dr. Jonathan Rosenbaum 
and Diane Ruth Cover, M.S.W.,for their help in the preparation of this article. 


The Story of the Akedah 
by Eliezer Steinman 

From the standpoint of its story alone the Akedah episode seems more like 
fable; its essence is missing. To begin with, the name of Mother Sarah never 
appears. Her offspring is being led to slaughter, yet she is never seen nor 
heard from. Where, indeed, is this compassionate mother who sheds not one 
bitter tear through the night before that fateful journey? Why did she not 
terrify the household with her angry bellows at first light as she watched her 
husband Abraham chop enough firewood for a sacrifice, saddle the donkey 
and complete all the many other preparations for his journey? 

Mother Sarah, who should have played the leading role in this Passion, 
hides instead in shadow. Even after the event she is not mentioned, nor are 
we given a single hint as to whether she is alive or dead. It is as if a decree 
of complete silence has been passed upon her by Scripture. It is as if she 
too — along with Isaac — was led to the altar to be bound, the only difference 
being that Isaac s death sentence was annulled by a miracle while Sarah never 
saw the light of day again. 

The truth of the matter is that anyone who reads this biblical episode 
recalls Mother Sarah and cannot forget for one instant how heartsick she 
must have been. Her voice cries out from the silence that hides her name, 
her moans punctuate every silence in the story. Sarah is slaughtered without 
a knife, her soul is consumed without fire. The whistle of the axe cleaving the 
gathered wood is clearly heard by the reader, who feels with each splitting 
thud, the mother s soul-shattering spasms as she swoons in fright. 

Whether or not her son was actually slaughtered, his mother was the true 
sacrificial sheep, and common decency would dictate that her agony not be 
laid bare for the whole world to see. Words fail in the attempt to portray her 
terror as the moment for the offering approaches and she envisions the razor- 
sharp blade being laid against her only sons naked throat. Even the briefest 
description of that is too much! Besides, commentators from earliest times 
have sought to connect the prolonged tale of Isaac s Binding with the fleeting 
mention of Sarahs death that opens the very next chapter, intimating that 
upon learning of Isaac s fated sacrifice her soul departed and she expired. 1 

Even so, we ought not to imagine that a Gentile writer would have taken 
a similar tack with this story. We find no such self-imposed censorship and 

1 She's the substitute; not the ram, a human consequence that cant be addressed 
by divine arithmetic. 


rigorous silence among the realistic characters of well-known playwrights. 
Nor is there a novelist noted for his descriptive powers who could honestly 
claim, "if this were my plot I would be equally brutal in relinquishing all the 
favorite tools of my craft, all the brilliant touches that normally go into creat- 
ing a scene where one soul confronts another, face to face" 

How numerous are the portrayals that one would crowd into such a play? 
There is Abraham, the father figure who must bear witness while remaining 
silent. He listens, he obeys, but his countenance gives nothing away. The two 
lads who escort him; they too stand and wait for a touch of color from the 
painter s brush or an animating phrase from the writer s pen — that never 
comes. These walk-on roles have their function, which could reveal itself 
through a number of interjected speeches in a stage play. And yet, the two 
standbys in the Akedah story remain mute. Isaac himself — the sheep who 
occupies center stage— hardly opens his mouth. How then is he portrayed? 
By the proverbial "fear of Isaac?" Shouldn't we expect him to guess aloud, to 
stammer and stutter, at least to hint that he s aware 1 . 

No writer in the world would resist the urge to depict the donkey. This 
donkey of Abrahams that carries his son Isaac to the Place of Binding— is 
surely worthy of mention. Something could be made of him, even embel- 
lished! And it goes without saying that the landscape, and the sunrise that 
suddenly illuminates it and all that dwells therein, deserve the playwright s 
attention. Why are there no stage directions to suggest that the sun is shining 
brightly as the slaughterer goes about his appointed task and the gloriously 
radiant angel— Gods emissary— appears beside the wide-eyed ram caught 
in a thicket, and above all, that this noonday light blinds the audience as it 
reflects off the upraised blade of the knife? 

Yes, the blade of the knife. Recall how fond the ancient Greek poets were 
of describing a priest as he whet the blade before performing a sacrifice, and 
what delight they took in tracking the wine-red blood as it fell in drops af- 
terwards. What a wide gap stretches from that scene to the Akedah with its 
spare account of characters, the bleak situations in which they find themselves; 
the shocking acts they commit. What a fitting mis en scene for sharpening 
the tools of one s craft. 

Yet, this is not where the biblical tale differs so starkly. For an artist didn't 
write it, but a visionary. No artisan and his crew raised its portals, but princes 
of wisdom, masters at capturing every nuance of human instinct including 
the noblest of them, the spirit of a song and the delight of a work of art. They 
were weavers of the mystery within a mystery. The Eye of Jacob (Ein Ya'akov) 


stands apart, said Moses, the man of God. It remains alone in its gaze, in the 
way it observes things, objects, actions. Jacob s eye does not look favorably 
on artifice, make delicacies out of what life serves up, emphasize stressful 
situations for their shock value. The ancient Hebrew did not milk feelings. 

Many seers arose in Israel but they did not stage plays; that was not their 
way. Ancient Judaism decreed against such presentation for the sole purpose 
of display; it avoided relating things as they occurred. Instead of reports they 
enabled succeeding generations to see the thing itself, its essence and emo- 
tions. Any presentation has a beginning and an end, and what takes place in it 
is determined by its ending. In the Jewish understanding, however, everything 
is marked with the stamp of eternity. There is nothing but being, a present 
tense that never ends. And this endless "now" has a name that is holy and 
awe-inspiring, a name that we are forbidden to pronounce. Even humankind s 
innermost feelings, the aches of our hearts that are forged in the furnace of 
being — these, too, are holy; to express them is to profane them. 

Thus we find ourselves in a grave predicament, for how do we determine 
that art itself is not sinful? After all, at bottom it is concerned with expression, 
whose main preoccupation is with the steady stirring of passions. Anything 
private is spewn out for public consumption, but the genius of ancient Juda- 
ism insists on the hiding of blood. The artist, by contrast, habitually dips his 
brush in blood; show him a place where blood has been spilled and bodies 
mangled — there he is! 

Assuredly, this matter splits our soul. Every one of us senses an element 
of desecration in the art of storytelling, of depiction. And to the extent that 
art symbolizes an altar it seems to descend involuntarily to the level of its 
own sacrificial offerings, embracing the tragic simply because it represents 
its daily bread. Still, we console ourselves with the conviction that art purifies 
all and atones for every sin. The ancient Hebrew did not share that opinion. 
He undermined any storytelling that tore the holy veil asunder for the sole 
purpose of revealing the emotional life and emptying the cauldron of the 
heart. His brush shunned the colors of blood and fire like a nazirite abstain- 
ing from forbidden drink. 

In the Akedah story, this severe— almost monkish abstention— achieves 
an epitome that is unmatched by any playwright. In fact, there is nothing to 
indicate that it was written as a drama. Quite the opposite! Things happen here 
as if in semi-darkness (k'va-alatah). An unearthly silence mutes all speech 
and action. Every voice is still and small; deliberately so, in contrast to the 
bloodthirsty subject matter. A blade is poised in mid-stroke, about to slash 
a son in the midst of life — the son who was destined to guarantee the future 


of Abraham s line. That blade chokes off all sound, prevents any utterance. 
A heavy curtain falls between stage and spectators, cutting short the slight- 
est chance of frivolity, assuring that this drama will never be mistaken for a 
mere performance. Real life must never be put on display, just as sanctified 
death cannot be play-acted. The pages of Tanakh are not scripts, nor were 
the visions conjured by Hebrew Prophets seen as spectacles. If life was fated 
to become a sacrificial stage, in no way would an audience ever witness it; 
the stage of Isaac {barnat Yits-hak) was not meant to be a stage of laughter 
{barnat yis-hak). How could it be? From its beginnings Israel differed in 
everything. It forbade entertainments, frowned on games and discouraged 
overindulgence in strong feelings. The public showing of emotions as a pas- 
time was out of the question. 

In the Akedah, a mist encompasses everything. Abraham, Isaac, the two 
lads, the donkey, the angel, the blade, the altar, the sheep, the mountain— all 
are seen as if in a dream. Nothing evolves. Time itself dies and is no more — as 
if in a dream. Even the place fades away. God sends Abraham "to one of the 
mountains that I will tell you of "—the place is hidden. And shortly thereafter, 
"Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place from afar." Everything here re- 
mains at a distance. Even the sadness that penetrates human depth is distant. 
It is only hinted at, trembling in isolated words, in signs, in symbols. "Take 
now your son, your only son, the one you loved: Isaac." From the paucity of 
language, the scarceness of expression, erupts an abundance of words, every 
one of them a glowing coal— dagger-shaped— a blade! 

Only in this one verse does the raging heart show emotion, convulsing in a 
rush of verbiage. And when it is over — again silence. Abraham, the two lads 
and Isaac trek in each other s company for three days, not a syllable falling 
between them. All communication is struck dumb: from humankind — from 
nature — not a whisper. Only silence — and though the heart bleeds, not a drop 
of blood in the tale. No orator takes up his theme in the Holy Book's pages — it 
is rather the visual impressions of all generations— speaking to us from the 
core of human existence. Do not call it destiny; certainly this is not an account 
in the normal sense. The biblical story is not a narrative about an event, it is 
the event itself caught in dazzling clarity. Earthly existence is revealed to us 
in all its tangled complexity: the ram of humanity— and the humanity of the 
ram — both entangled in the thickets of a single dilemma. And only Isaac the 
saintly one asks, "but where is the sacrificial sheep?" 

Is Isaac s question indeed as innocent as it seems? And yet, how could it 
be otherwise? Isaac, the intended offering, must be pure; the flesh-and-blood 
Isaac who has been led to the Place of Binding. Perhaps in his youthful in- 
nocence he is unaware, but as a biblical figure he is party to the unfolding 


drama! He knows, or he guesses. Biblical heroes — especially our Patriarchs — 
are always given an extra measure, not just one but two. They are gifted in 
every area, including their speech. Every word bears a double meaning; every 
sound carries its own echo. The phrase "but where is the sheep for the burnt 
offering?" vibrates with innuendo. This is proven by what preceded it in the 

Then Isaac said, "Father!" And Abraham answered, "Yes, my son." And Isaac 
said, "Here are the firestone and the wood, but where is the sheep for the 
burnt offering?" 

The Hebrew Bible never repeats itself without cause. Even Abrahams re- 
ply can be understood in two different senses. And Abraham said, "God will 
provide the sheep for His burnt offering, my son." These words seem clear 
enough — but not entirely. They can also be read, "God will provide the sheep 
for His burnt offering: my son." Or, if you prefer, "God will provide the sheep; 
for His burnt offering: my son." 

Indeed, father and son catch each other s meaning quite well, not from the 
words but from the echo-laden silences. Scripture continues: "So they went 
both of them together"— in perfect accord, of one heart and mind— equally 
fearful. In fact, the phrase "they went both of them together" occurs twice in 
this episode — following the lone dialogue and also preceding it, when Abra- 
ham first laid the wood across Isaac s back and took the knife in hand— as if 
to signal its dual meanings. 

If we take into account all of the hints and hidden meanings and silences 
that get overlooked in the Akedah story, there would be no end to it. Yet, 
we would not be wrong in hypothesizing that many writing principles later 
codified in Hebrew literature have been laid down in the Akedah story. 
One of these tenets overshadows all others as a guiding light: the essence of 
imagination is to make a gift of life, and the essence of that making is to give 
the gift to others. Just so, telling a story allows others to consider their own 
actions before they act. 

In a word — hiding your own voice in order to hear its heavenly echo — that is art. 

Eliezer Steinman (1892-1970) was a leading figure in Israeli literary circles in the 
1950s. He believed that the primary function of a critical essay is to improve mans 
view on life, and his B'eir HaHasidut series ofHasidic tales gained the Lubavitcher 
Rebbes support even though Steinman was an avowed secularist 

With the collaboration of Dr. Scott Black, Assistant Professor of English Literature 
at the University of Utah, this essay is translated from Antologiyah Mikra'it — The 
Tanakh as Mirrored in Modern Hebrew Literature, Gedalyah Elkoshi, ed. (Tel- 
Aviv: Dvir), 19S3: 48-52. 


A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Abraham, Isaac and the 
Altar: Implications for Who We Are and How We Change 

by Dennis G. Shulman 

What has once come to life clings tenaciously to its existence. One feels 
inclined to doubt sometimes whether the dragons of primeval days are 
really extinct. 

Sigmund Freud, "Analysis Terminable or Interminable" 

No single narrative in Western literature has provoked the eruption of argu- 
ment, controversy, creativity, interpretation and angst as Genesis 22: 1-19. In 
this biblical text, referred to by Jews as the Akedah (Hebrew for the binding), 
less than three hundred and fifty Hebrew words in all, the near-sacrifice of Isaac 
by his father is described. Sculptors, painters, poets, musicians, philosophers, 
theologians and commentators, in our and in ancient times, have struggled 
with the implications of God s ordering this murder. They have wondered 
and worried about what it was that happened when the aged Abraham, 
early that morning, rose, traveled for three days, took his beloved son to the 
mountain, bound him to the altar there, prepared him for the slaughter; and 
then, abruptly interrupted by a voice from heaven, substituted for his son a 
ram caught in the thicket. 

The Akedah is a central narrative for all three Western religions. Although 
not mentioned in the remainder of the Tanakh, reference to Genesis 22 is abun- 
dant and central in the Talmud, midrash and the Jewish liturgy. The Akedah 
is one of the biblical texts read and discussed each year on Rosh HaShanah, 
the beginning of the most somber penitential period of the Jewish calendar. 1 
According to the Talmud, it is because of the Akedah that Jews blow the rams 
horn on this day in order to temper God s judgment. "Rabbi Abbahu asked, 
'Why do we blow a rams horn on the New Year?' The Holy One, blessed be 
He replied, 'So that I may remember on your behalf the binding of Isaac, the 
son of Abraham, and account it to you as if you had each bound yourself 
before Me."' 2 This strong liturgical association of the binding of Isaac and 
God s forgiveness for the present-day Jew is repeated every morning in the 
synagogue. After reading the Akedah, included in the daily Orthodox prayer 
book, the worshipper prays, "Master of the world, may it be Your will that 

1 For an interesting and scholarly examination of the rabbinic choice to read the 
Akedah on the second day of Rosh HaShanah, see Zlotowitz (1975). 

2 BT Rosh HaShanah 17a. Also see Genesis Rabbah 56: 9. 


You remember the covenant You made with our fathers. Even as Abraham, 
our father, held back his compassion from his only son and desired to slay 
him in order to do Your will, so may Your mercy hold back Your anger from 
us... Master of all worlds, it is not on account of our righteousness that we 
offer our supplications before You, but on account of Your great compas- 
sion. What are we? What is our life?... We are Your people... the children of 
Abraham, Your friend, to whom You made a promise on Mount Moriah [the 
setting for the Akedah]; we are the descendents of his only son, Isaac, who 
was bound on the altar." 3 

Christian art draws heavily on the Genesis text. Isaac and Jesus each carries 
his own altar wood to his slaughter. The ram substitute (stuck in the thicket 
by his horns) and Jesus each "wears" a crown of thorns. Mount Moriah, 
where Abraham brings his beloved son to sacrifice, and the Temple Mount 
in Jerusalem, where God brings his beloved son to be sacrificed, is, by biblical 
tradition, the same place. 4 

In the Koran, there is also an Akedah text. It reads: 5 

Father Abraham said, "My Lord, grant me righteous children." 

God gave him good news of a good child. 

When Abraham grew enough to work with him, he said, 

"My son, I see in a dream that I am sacrificing you. What do you think?" 

His son said, "O my father, do what you are commanded to do. 

You will find me, God willing, patient." 

The Most Merciful never advocates evil. 

They both submitted, and Abraham put his son s forehead 

down to sacrifice him. 
God called him: "O Abraham. You have believed the dream." 
God thus rewards the righteous. 
That was an exacting test indeed. 

God ransomed his son by substituting an animal sacrifice. 
And God preserved his history for subsequent generations. 
Peace be upon Abraham. 
God thus rewards the righteous. 
He is one of our believing servants. 

3 Birnbaum (1949) pp. 22-24. 

4 See 2 Chronicles 3: 1. 

5 Koran, Sura 37: 100-111. 


It is interesting to note that in the Koran text, Abraham s son is consulted 
and is a willing sacrifice. This is not the case in the Genesis narrative, although 
one finds a voluntary and informed Isaac in many midrashim 6 , in the biblical 
interpretations of Josephus 7 and in the Book of Jubilees found in the Dead 
Sea Scrolls. 8 In these sources, Isaac, having been informed by his father what 
is to happen, asks his father to bind his hands tightly. Some of these texts 
were probably known to Muhammad. It is also important to consider that 
in the Arabic text of this story, the sons name is not specified. Some schol- 
ars wonder whether the son described in the Koran is Isaac or Ishmael. 9 By 
Muslim tradition, contrary to Genesis Chapter 21, Abraham does not banish 
Hagar (Sarahs handmaiden) and Ishmael (Abrahams oldest son) into the 
wilderness. Instead, Abraham travels with Hagar and Ishmael to Mecca to 
complete the sacrifice. 

Infanticide (whether attempted or completed, ritual or motivated by other 
purposes, performed by fathers or their surrogates, practiced on both daugh- 
ters and sons, on infants and older children) is a central motif found in much 
of the literature and mythology of the ancient and classical Near East. In the 
Hebrew Bible, the god to whom children were most frequently sacrificed by 
gentiles and refractory Israelites alike was Molokh, a Canaanite god of fire 
who originates from the third millennium BCE. 

[Next to the place] dedicated to the gentler gods had been erected a 
platform of movable stones under which a huge fire already raged. On the 
platform stood a stone god of unusual construction: it had two extended 
arms raised so that from the stone fingertips to the body they formed a 
wide inclined plane, but above the spot where they joined the torso there 
was a huge gaping mouth, so that whatever was placed upon the arms 
was free to roll swiftly downward and plunge into the fire. This was the 
god [Molokh]... 

Slaves heaped fresh [timber] under the statue, and when the flames leaped 
from the god s mouth, two priests grabbed one of the eight boys... and 
raised him high in the air. Muttering incantations they approached the 
outstretched arms, dashed the child upon them and gave the boy a dreadful 
shove downward, so that he scraped along the stony arms and plunged 

6 For midrashim concerning Isaac as willing sacrifice, see Genesis Rabbah LVI: 
8 and Ginzberg (1998). 

7 Josephus (1960); Antiquities of the Jews, Book I, Chapter 13: 4. 

8 Vermes (1996). 

9 According to some older Muslim sources, Muhammad believed that the son 
Abraham almost sacrificed, as described in this Koran text, was Isaac, not Ishmael. 
See Hirschberg (1972). 


into the fire. As Molokh accepted him with a belch of fire there was a 
faint cry, then an anguished scream as the child's mother protested... The 
priests had noticed this breach of religious solemnity and were angry. 10 

Child sacrifice to this Canaanite god is explicitly referred to and vehemently 
denounced in the Hebrew Bible. In Leviticus, God commands Moses, "You 
shall say to the children of Israel,... or to the strangers that sojourn in Israel, 
that give of his seed to Molokh; he shall surely be put to death: the people of 
the land shall stone him... And if the people of the land hide their eyes from 
that man, when he gives of his seed to Molokh, and put him not to death; 
then I will set My face against that man, and against his family." 11 In 2 Kings, 
the text states, "And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children 
of Hinnom [the site for Molokh worship], that no man might make his son 
or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molokh." 12 

Twelve hundred years after Abraham, Isaac and the altar, the prophets are 
still horrified and appalled by the Israelites who are sacrificing their children 
in Molokh s valley. Jeremiah states, "For the children of Judah have done evil 
in my sight, saith the Lord: they have set their abominations in the house 
which is called by my name, to pollute it. And they have built the high places 
of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons 
and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, neither came 
it into my heart." 13 The prophets Ezekiel and Second Isaiah 14 further confirm 
Jeremiahs contention that feeding the children to the fiery Molokh was still 
practiced by Israelites up until the Babylonian exile and captivity. 

Greek mythology, and the Athenian plays that draw on its heroes and 
themes as subjects, are also replete with child sacrifice. 

Child sacrifice to assure a favorable military outcome or fertile growing 
season, or to appease a god who has been offended was not uncommon 
in the ancient Near East. Plutarch, the Greek essayist and biographer, 
reported that ritual child sacrifice in the Roman Empire was still being 
practiced in his own time, as late as 115 CE. 15 

Two examples of this are Iphigenia and Oedipus. 

10 James Michener (1965) pp. 111-112. A similar scenario is described by Martin 
Bergmann (1992). 

11 Leviticus 20: 2-5. 

12 2 Kings 23: 10. 

13 Jeremiah 7: 30-31. 

14 See especially Ezekiel 16: 21, 20: 31, 23: 37; and Isaiah 57: 5. Also see Psalms 
106: 37-38 & Micah 6: 7. 

15 Rives (1995). 


When unfavorable winds detained the Greek army at Aulis for days, prohibit- 
ing the ships from sailing into battle with the Trojans, the oracle Calchas told 
Agamemnon that he must sacrifice his daughter to appease the god Artemis, 
who Agamemnon had offended and who was the cause of the poor sailing 
weather. Misleading his daughter and wife Clytemnestra that Iphigenia was 
to be married to Achilles, the child sacrifice-bride was brought to Aulis. In 
one version of the myth, Agamemnon actually sacrificed her to Artemis. 
Interestingly, and reminiscent of the Akedah, in other versions of the same 
myth, in the final moment before Iphigenia was slaughtered by her father, 
the god Artemis took pity on her and substituted a deer on the altar. In this 
second version, Artemis then carried the young woman in a cloud to Tauris 
where she became the gods high priestess. 

Euripides (485-406 BCE) drew on both versions of the myth in his two plays, 
"Iphigenia in Aulis" and "Iphigenia in Tauris." 16 In the latter work, Iphigenia 
describes her experience of being the sacrifice: 

Greek hands lifted me at Aulis 

And led me like a beast where, at the altar, 

My father held the sacrificial knife. 

I live it all again. My fingers, groping, 

Go out to him like this and clutch his beard 

And cling about his knees. I cry to him: 

"It is you yourself, yourself, who brought me here, 

You who deceived my maidens and my mother! 

They sing my marriage song at home, they fill 

The house with happiness, while all the time 

Here I am dying at my father s hands! 

You led me in your chariot to take 

Achilles for my lord, but here is death 

And the taste of blood, not kisses, on my lips!" 

In addition to propitiating the gods to obtain a particular favorable outcome, 
child sacrifice in the literature of the ancient Near East was often motivated 
by intergenerational conflict and competition for power. We see this theme in 
the Cronus-Zeus clash in the Theogony of Hesiod, a contemporary of Homer, 

16 Euripides (1981). 


8 th century CE. 17 In it, Cronus sequentially eats each of his children so that 
he or she will not usurp his heavenly power. One also sees this theme in the 
stories concerning the births of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Oedipus. 18 

Oedipus, more than any other hero of Greek mythology, is well known 
today, mostly because of Sigmund Freud s use of this figure as the organizing 
metaphor for his psychoanalytic insights. In Sophocles' tragedy, "Oedipus 
Rex," 19 first performed in 431 BCE, we enter the narrative in the middle. A 
famine is ravishing the land of Thebes, killing the children, crops and ani- 
mals. The King of Thebes, Oedipus, desperately wishes to understand why 
the gods have sent this famine, and to take all steps necessary to make it end. 
Reluctantly, the blind seer Tiresias tells the King that the gods are angry with 
Thebes because the murder of the previous king, Laius, was never avenged. 
Oedipus conducts a relentless inquiry into the matter himself. 

The play reads like a contemporary well-constructed murder mystery. With 
each clue that Oedipus obtains gradually tightening the noose of guilt around 
Oedipus' own neck— the audience only a few steps ahead of the characters 
on the stage. 

What we, and Oedipus, discover is that when Laius and Jocasta, the King 
and Queen of Thebes, first learn that they are to be parents, they consult 
the oracle at Delphi. The oracle tells the young couple that the son that is in 
Jocasta s womb would grow up and kill his father, Laius, and have sexual rela- 
tions with his own mother. When Oedipus is born, to prevent the prophesy 
from coming true, the couple give the infant to a servant to take him to the 
distant Mount Citaeron in Corinth, to pierce and shackle his ankles there. 
The name "Oedipus" is Greek for "Swollen feet." The servant is to leave him to 
starve and die in that isolated spot. Years later, during the inquiry, an ancient 
shepherd tells King Oedipus that he took pity on the infant and, unbeknownst 
to Laius and Jocasta, carried the infant to be raised by the childless King and 
Queen of Corinth. 

There the boy grows to be a young man, ignorant of his history and of his 
adoption, until when sixteen years old, Oedipus overhears a conversation that 
changes his life course. During a drunken banquet in the palace, the prince 

17 See Hesiod (1953). For a discussion of mythology centering around Zeus and 
his family see Cook (1925) and Arafat (1990). 

18 See Heinz Kohut (1982) in which he argues that Freud overemphasized in- 
tergenerational conflict and under-emphasized intergenerational support in Freud's 
reading of the Greek classics and in his analysis of psychodynamics. 

19 Sophocles (1994). 


hears a comment that makes him suspect that he was adopted by, not born 
to the royal couple. 

In a deluge of emotion, Oedipus travels to Delphi to inquire of the oracle as 
to the identity of his biological parents. When the prince arrives, the oracle 
does not answer Oedipus' question, but instead, repeats the prophesy told 
to his parents sixteen years before— that Oedipus will kill his father and have 
sexual relations with his mother. The oracle says, "You are fated to couple with 
your mother, you will bring a breed of children into the light no man can bear 
to see— you will kill your father, the one who gave you life." 

Oedipus, terrified and overwhelmed by the prophesy, forgetting that he 
came to the oracle uncertain of who his parents were, rides impetuously away 
from Corinth and his adopted parents, attempting to prevent the prediction 
from coming true. On the road from Delphi, King Laius and his retinue ap- 
proach and refuse to yield. Oedipus, in a rage, kills the entire royal party. 

Later, on that same journey in which Oedipus desperately flees from Corinth 
and his past, Delphi and his future, and himself and his present, our hero 
solves the riddle of the Sphinx. As a result of this, Oedipus is rewarded with 
King Laius' Theban throne and wife. 

Once the murder mystery is solved, Jocasta, Oedipus' mother and wife, 
hangs herself. Oedipus, in a torrent of self-accusation and guilt, gouges out 
his eyes and is exiled to Mount Citaeron in Corinth yet again. Movingly, the 
play ends with the just-blind Oedipus being slowly led off the stage by his 
young daughter Antigone. 

It is interesting to note that Sigmund Freud's understanding of the hero in 
the Sophocles' play involved a significant creative misreading, a sort of mi- 
drash 20 , somewhat distant from the original text. Unlike the hero of Freud's 
Oedipal complex, Sophocles' Oedipus' murder of his father and sexual contact 
with his mother did not reflect Oedipus' "oedipal" wishes, but rather his fate. 
Also, whereas Freud's Oedipus is motivated by a profound and primal longing 
for his mother, Sophocles' Oedipus obtained his mother as wife as part of a 
prize package, for solving the riddle of the Sphinx. 21 

Most significant, Freud's Oedipus is rife with competitive and murderous 
wishes toward his father. It is these wishes of the son, for Freud, that create in 
the child's mind a fear of the father and of the potential for castration, what 

20 I argue in another place that clinical psychoanalysis, as Freud conceived of it, 
can best be understood as a modern form of midrash. See Shulman (2005). 

21 For a more comprehensive comparison of Freud's and Sophocles' Oedipus, 
see Erich Fromm (1957). 


the child imagines will be the mode of retaliation by his father. Therefore, 
for Freud, the oedipal wishes of the child precede the fantasy of aggressive 
retaliation by the father. 

For Sophocles' Oedipus, the situation is just the opposite. Before Oedi- 
pus longs for his mother and wishes to kill his father, he is sentenced by his 
parents to a brutal death on an isolated and distant mountain. For the Greek 
playwright, the "Laius Complex," the father s murderous wishes toward the 
son in order to prevent his future usurpation of the father s power, precedes 
the oedipal. That is, for Sophocles, but not for Freud, infanticidal wishes 
precede the patricidal. 22 

The clash of generations over power and the resulting demand for infan- 
ticide is also a central theme in the legend concerning Abrahams birth. In 
the Torah, we do not meet Abraham until he is already seventy-five years 
old when he is called by God to leave his land, his kindred and his father s 
house. 23 For information concerning Abraham s birth, we need to turn to the 
midrashic literature. 24 

Nimrod, the mightiest king of his day, an astrologer, the grandson of 
Noah, saw in the stars that there was a man to be born who would rise up 
against him and overturn his gods. He consulted his advisers. The court 
unanimously agreed that a large building should be constructed in which all 
pregnant women in the realm will reside throughout their confinements. If 
the child is a boy, he will be killed by the midwife. If the child is a girl, then 
all manner of gifts and honors will be given to the mother. Then, mother and 
daughter will be released from the building. The building was constructed, 
the proclamations were issued and the officers were designated to execute 
Nimrod s wishes. More than seventy thousand infant boys were killed during 
these evil days. 

It was about this time that Terah married the mother of Abraham. When 
she learned of her pregnancy, she hid this from her husband and all others. 
When her day had come to give birth, Abrahams mother was terrified. She 
walked for a long distance, alone, into the wilderness and gave birth to her 
son in a remote cave. Abrahams mother, knowing that her son was the one 
Nimrod feared, abandoned the infant in the cave. Before leaving him, she 

22 For an excellent critical discussion of the "Laius Complex" and some of its 
theoretical and clinical implications, see Bergmann (1992). 

23 Genesis 12: 1. 

24 For variations of this legend concerning the birth of Abraham and the origins 
of his faith in a "prime mover" God, see Ginzberg (1998). 


said, "Alas that I bore you when Nimrod is king.... Better that you perish here 
in this cave than I see you dead at my breast." 

God then took pity on the infant Abraham, weeping in the cave, and sent 
His angels to nurse the child. Miraculously, it was on the tenth day that 
Abraham walked out of the cave as the sun was just setting. Abraham, awed 
by the beauty of the stars, worshipped them. Then, in the morning, the stars 
were gone from the sky. Abraham, disheartened, realized that they were no 
gods. Later that day, the sun rose full in the sky. Abraham, dazzled by its light, 
worshipped the sun. And then, alas, it set, leaving Abraham yet again sad and 
godless. That very evening, Abraham marveled at the moons glow, until a 
cloud obscured his newest god, deserting him again without the Divine. 

Abraham then cried out in joy and understanding, "The stars and the sun 
and the moon are no gods, but there is One who sets them all in motion. It 
is He, and only He, who I will worship." 

The motif we see in the Abraham story, massive infanticide commanded 
by a father-surrogate whose power is challenged by the birth of a religious 
hero, is also seen in the well-known Hebrew Bible story of the birth of Moses 
and the Christian Bible story of the birth of Jesus. Both of these paramount 
figures were born, like Abraham, during evil days. Moses' birth is preceded by 
the command by Pharaoh that all Hebrew boys be killed. Moses is only saved 
because of the intervention of a righteous Gentile, the unnamed daughter of 
Pharaoh. Aware of what she is doing, Pharaohs daughter bravely defies her 
father's orders and has the infant Hebrew Moses, floating in his ark down 
the Nile, retrieved and redeemed. "And the daughter of Pharaoh came down 
to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river's side; 
and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it. And 
when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And 
she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews' children. 
Then said Miriam, Moses' sister, to Pharaoh's daughter, Shall I go and call 
for you a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you? 
And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, Go." 25 

It is thirteen hundred years after the birth of Moses, forty-two generations 
following the birth of Abraham that Herod, King of Israel, is informed by the 
three wise men from the East that they are seeking the infant who is the "King 
of the Jews." 26 Herod, distraught by this infant "King," summons the priests 
and scribes of Israel to discern what Scripture reveals as to the location of the 

25 Exodus 2: 5-8. 

26 Matthew 2: 2. 


birth of the Messiah. Herod is informed that the place will be Bethlehem. The 
King, deceiving the wise men about his motives— lying to them that he would 
also like to worship the infant— asks them to return to Jerusalem on their way 
back to the East and inform Herod where they find this child. The wise men, 
after finding Jesus in the manger, having been warned by God in a dream not 
to return by Jerusalem, travel back to their home avoiding Herod. 

Then, Joseph also has a dream. In this one, an angel tells Joseph to take 
his wife, Mary, and the infant Jesus and flee to Egypt until Herod is dead. 
There, the infant Messiah is safe, but not the children of Bethlehem and its 

Herod orders the "murder of the innocents." The Book of Matthew states, 
"Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked by the wise men, was enraged, 
and sent forth, and killed all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all 
the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which 
he had diligently enquired of the wise men. Then, that which was spoken by 
Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, In Ramah was there a voice heard, lamen- 
tation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, 
and would not be comforted, because they are all dead." 27 

The biblical text of the Akedah is set within a long-standing, tenacious 
and voluminous classical literature and history of child sacrifice. From 
Canaan's Molokh to Hadrian s Rome; from Cronus to Agamemnon to Laius 
to Nimrod to Pharaoh to Herod; both pagans and Israelites even in the days 
of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel; motivated by religious fervor or a wish 
to propitiate irascible and unpredictable gods or to perpetuate one s own 
power; the sacrifice of the child persists as a ubiquitous and stubborn classi- 
cal theme and practice in the ancient Near East. It is within this literary and 
historical context that our biblical Akedah text was first written, redacted 
and chanted. 

Isaac, before the Akedah, is the consummate precious child. Abraham is 
one hundred and Sarah ninety years old when Isaac is born. Only after years of 
trying to have children and suffering with their childlessness, only after Abra- 
ham confronting God about Sarahs infertility and how it calls into question 
all that God has promised him and his seed, the couple learn from messengers 
of God that their prayers are finally answered. Astonished by this news, the 
couple laughs (tsahak in Hebrew) and thus, Isaac (Yitshak) is born. 

27 Matthew 2: 16-18. 


But Isaac before the Akedah is not only a precious child to this tiny and 
aged nuclear family, Isaac is the precious child to monotheism. It is important 
to keep in mind that Isaac is not Abrahams only or even oldest son. When 
Sarah failed to conceive, she offered Abraham her handmaiden Hagar, an 
Egyptian, so that Sarah could have a child with Abraham by means of this 
substitution. This was a custom widely practiced in the ancient Near east. 
The Torah states, "Now Sarai Abram s wife bare him no children: and she had 
an Egyptian maid, whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, "Behold 
now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing; I pray you, go in to my maid; it 
may be that I shall obtain children by her." 28 It was from this Abraham-Hagar 
union that the first son, Ishmael, was born. 

Yet, like other genesis narratives, for example, Jacob vs. Esau, Joseph vs. 
his ten older brothers, the covenant that God makes with Abraham and with 
the Jewish people is not through Abraham s oldest son Ishmael, it is with the 
younger, the genetic son of Abraham and Sarah — the one born not in the 
natural course of events, but rather, by a special divine act. 29 According to 
the Bible, God s covenant is through precious Isaac. This is made explicit in 
the Torah text. "And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear you a son indeed; 
and you shall call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him 
for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. And as for Ishmael, 
I have heard you: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and 
will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make 
him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac." 30 

In the biblical chapter immediately preceding the Akedah text, the position 
of one son over the other is secured when Abraham, pressured by Sarah and 
supported by God, banishes Hagar and Ishmael into the wilderness. "And 
Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, 
and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her 
away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beer Sheva." 31 

Therefore, when Abraham, knife in hand, is standing over his bound son 
Isaac on Mount Moriah, the ancient patriarch is not only about to kill the 

28 Genesis 16: 1-2. 

29 It is a consistent pattern to favor the younger sons in Genesis— Abel (4: 4-5), 
Isaac (21: 1-2), Jacob (25: 21) and Joseph (30: 22-24). This literary motif that the chosen 
one in a given generation is not born by natural circumstances, but requires direct and 
miraculous intervention on the part of God— is one of the roots for the similar, but 
more concrete version of this narrative one finds in Christian theology. 

30 Genesis 17: 19-21. 

31 Genesis 21: 14. 


long-awaited beloved child of his and his wife's old age, but also, Abraham 
is about to slaughter his future. All of Abrahams hopes for the world, the 
aspirations that he worked toward since being called, all of God s promises 
to him, lie on the altar bound. At that moment, it is monotheism itself that 
hangs by the thinnest thread. 

The personality of Abraham before the Akedah is well developed and con- 
sistent in the Torah text. Abraham, a prince of faith who leaves all he knows 
behind when God commands him to do so, is also a figure who negotiates. He 
negotiates with family in Genesis Chapter 13, with allies in 14, with neighbor- 
ing princes in 20, and even with God in 18. 

When God tells Abraham that He will be destroying the people of the sinful 
towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham argues: 

Abraham came forward and said, "Will You sweep away the innocent 
along with the guilty? What if there should be fifty innocent within the 
city; will You then wipe out the place and not forgive it for the sake of 
the innocent fifty who are in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing, to 
bring death upon the innocent as well as the guilty, so that innocent and 
guilty fare alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth 
deal justly?" And the Lord answered, "If I find within the city of Sodom 
fifty innocent ones, I will forgive the whole place for their sake." Abraham 
spoke up, saying, "Here I venture to speak to my Lord, I who am but dust 
and ashes: What if the fifty innocent should lack five? Will You destroy 
the whole city for want of the five?" And the Lord answered, "I will not 
destroy if I find forty-five there." But Abraham spoke to Him again, and 
said, "What if forty should be found there?" And the Lord answered, "I 
will not do it, for the sake of the forty." And Abraham said, "Let not my 
Lord be angry if I go on: What if thirty should be found there?" And the 
Lord answered, "I will not do it if I find thirty there." And Abraham said, 
"I venture again to speak to my Lord: What if twenty should be found 
there?" And the Lord answered, "I will not destroy, for the sake of the 
twenty." And Abraham said, "Let not my Lord be angry if I speak but this 
last time: What if ten should be found there?" And the Lord answered, "I 
will not destroy, for the sake of the ten." 32 

What is extraordinary about this narrative, unique in Western literature, is 
its depiction of God, humanity and our relationship. In this text, God is not a 
distant despot, but rather a constitutional monarch. 33 In this passage, much- 
cited in Jewish sources, God is governed by the same rules as His creatures, 
obligated to live up to high ethical standards. The man demands of his God, 

32 Genesis 18: 23-32. 

33 This characterization of the Jewish God as "constitutional monarch" is devel- 
oped by Fromm (1966). 


"Shall not the Judge of all the earth act justly?" In these verses, Abraham not 
only approaches God, but also, like Job much later in the same Tanakh, chal- 
lenges Him, makes Him think, demands a dialogue, requires an answer, and 
ultimately changes His mind. It is precisely this negotiating Abraham who is 
so prized by Jewish tradition. 

In rabbinic discussions comparing the righteousness of Noah with Abra- 
ham, it is Abrahams readiness to argue, even with his God, that is highly 
valued. 34 

The Zohar, the 13 th -century Jewish mystical commentary on the Torah, 

When Noah came out of the ark 

he opened his eyes and saw the whole world [and all humanity] 

completely destroyed. 

He began to weep for the world [and complain to God...] 

Noah scolded, "Master of the world, You are called Compassionate! 

You should have shown compassion for Your creatures [and not 

sent a flood to destroy your glorious creation]!" 

The Blessed Holy One answered him, "Foolish shepherd! 

So now you say this, but not when I spoke to you tenderly, saying 

'Make yourself an ark of gopher wood... As for Me, I am about to 

bring the Flood... to destroy all flesh... [Go into the ark, you and 

all your household] for you alone have I found righteous before Me 

in this generation.'" 

I [God] lingered with you and spoke to you at length 

so that you would ask for mercy for the world! 

But as soon as you [Noah] heard that you would be safe in the ark, 

the evil of the world did not touch your heart. 

You built the ark and saved only yourself and your family. 

It is only now that the world has been destroyed that you bother to 

open your mouth to utter questions and complaints."' 

Rabbi Yohanan said "Come and see the difference between Noah and 

the righteous heroes of Israel! 

Noah did not shelter his generation 

34 See especially Zohar 1, 106a, 215b, Zohar Chadash 23a; and Genesis Rabbah 
XLIX: 9-10. 


and did not pray for them like Abraham. 

For as soon as the Blessed Holy One said to Abraham, 

'The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is so great,' 

immediately, Abraham came forward and asked, 

'Will You sweep away the innocent along with the guilty?' 

Abraham countered the Blessed Holy One with more and more words 

until finally Abraham implored the Blessed Holy One to forgive the 

entire generation: 'if just ten innocent people could be found...' 

And Noah, the Blessed Holy One lingered with him and spoke many 

words to him [over many hours]. 

The Blessed Holy One said to Himself, "Perhaps, now, Noah would ask 

for mercy for his generation." 

But Noah [unlike Abraham] did not care and did not ask for mercy. 

He just built the ark for himself, and alas, the whole world was 

destroyed as a result. 35 

And yet, the Abraham of the Akedah is uncharacteristically wordless, more 
like the Zohar s Noah than himself, when God commands him to sacrifice his 
own son. This Abraham, negotiator par excellence of the Torah, is suddenly, 
surprisingly and utterly mute. Everett Fox comments on Abrahams seeming 
eagerness to sacrifice Isaac. "We are told of no sleepless night, nor does he 
ever say a word to God. Instead, he is described with a series of [active] verbs: 
hurrying, saddling, taking, splitting, arising, going." 36 

It is Abrahams atypical silence and unambivalent eagerness to do the 
sacrifice that cries out for explanation. 

What Happened on Mount Moriah 

God, Abraham and the Akedah can be viewed through three discrete con- 
ceptual prisms. These are the traditional, the socio-historical and the psy- 

The traditional view, irrespective of its origins in Judaism, Christianity 
or Islam, holds that not only is the text perfect and sacred, but also, for the 
most part, so are the principle characters of God and Abraham. The many 
gaps and ambiguities in the Akedah narrative are filled in by developing a 
running commentary that interprets God and Abraham "upward," that is, 

35 Zohar '1, 215b. 

36 Fox's (1995) comment on Genesis 22. 


that provides the most positive "spin" on their behavior and motivations. 
For example, for the traditionalist, God only tests those He knows will pass. 
Or God, at the beginning of the story, knows how it will end. Or God really 
did not mean to have Abraham sacrifice his son at all, but rather He meant 
to have Abraham merely prepare his son for a sacrifice. It was Abraham who 
misunderstood the command. 

Turning from God to Abraham: Abraham does not question God s com- 
mand to kill Isaac, nor delays his embarking on the sacrificial mission because 
Abraham is a faithful God-fearing servant anxious to fulfill all of God s wishes. 
Or Abraham answers Isaac s question about the lamb with a lie, "God Himself 
will provide the lamb," because of compassion for his vulnerable Isaac. Or 
Abraham, out of concern for Isaacs safety, returns alone to Be er Sheva, only 
after taking steps to guard against the retaliation of the Evil Eye. 

The rabbinic understanding of Isaac as a thirty-seven-year-old man, 37 con- 
tradictory to the actual Hebrew text, also is an example of the traditionalist s 
tendency to interpret upward. If Isaac is an aware and cooperating mature 
sacrifice then the emotional and theological sting of God and Abraham con- 
spiring to kill the young innocent is lessened. 

The second view conceptualizes God and Abraham within a specific so- 
cial and historical context. From this perspective, God is not timeless nor is 
Abraham necessarily a model to emulate. Both of these characters and the 
Akedah itself, function within a circumscribed milieu. This socio-cultural 
milieu is inhabited and dominated by gods who demand human blood to 
prove obedience, where the most righteous of the devotees readily and will- 
ingly sacrifice to their gods that which is most beloved to them, and where 
children are seen as property and merely a means to an end. 

Within this socio-historical position, the Akedah represents both the old 
and the new. The Akedah narrative is firmly embedded in a pagan sacrificial 
worldview, while stretching culture toward a shift in paradigm. The new 
paradigm is characterized by a worldview where human life is considered 
sacred, where ethics take precedence over obedience and where God no 
longer demands human blood for His worship. 

The psychological viewpoint constructs the Akedah narrative as a story 
about "Every Man." Whereas the traditional position assumes that Abraham 
represents the heroic ideal, and the socio-historical perspective assumes 
that Abraham represents a prototype who lived within a specific time and 

37 For a critique of the rabbinic idea that Isaac was thirty-seven years old, see 
Abraham ibn Ezras (1988) comment on Genesis 22. 


place, the psychological perspective assumes that the struggles that Abraham 
grapples with in the Akedah are our struggles. 

In the Akedah , Abraham and we are forced to confront ourselves. We are 
forced to confront our ambivalence about the younger generation, the help- 
less, innocent and the vulnerable. We are forced to confront our impulse 
to sacrifice our children to our own agenda. We are forced to confront our 
eagerness to betray our future, hope, aspirations, ideals and goals. 

We, like Abraham in the Akedah, struggle with our paganism each day. 
Paganism is not just the worship of statues or the Earth goddess, that is, the 
reverence for the concrete over the abstract Deity. Paganism is placing things 
and ideologies above people, and possessions and ego above ethical values. 38 
Paganism, whether it is the paganism of Abraham in the Akedah text or our 
form of paganism in the early twenty-first century, is placing the things that 
matter most at the mercy of the things that matter least. 39 

Firmly within this psychological perspective, W. Gunther Plaut, a rabbi and 
biblical commentator, writing about the Akedah, contends, "The story may 
thus be read as a paradigm for the father and son relationship. In a way, every 
parent seeks to dominate his child and is in danger of seeking to sacrifice him 
to his parental plans or hopes. In the biblical story [of the Akedah], God is 
present and can therefore stay the fathers hand. In all too many repetitions 
of the scene, God is absent and the knife falls." 40 

It is this psychological perspective that is the conceptual backdrop within 
which we now explore what took place on Mount Moriah. 

Abraham, rather than a knight of faith, is a hero of transformation. When 
he rises early in the morning, saddles his ass and takes his son, his donkey 
and his two lads for the three-day journey to Moriah, Abraham is listening to 
one type of divine voice. This voice is a much more ancient and generic God 
of nature. He is a God like the gods with whom he grew up and that he shares 
with his Semitic neighbors. At the beginning of the Akedah, just like Adam in 

38 See Kravitz (1997). 

39 This is a paraphrase of a quotation attributed to the philosopher W.P. Mon- 

40 See Plauts (1981) comment on Genesis 22. For a poetic realization of this idea 
see Wilfred Owens "The Parable of the Old Man and the Young," written by the twenty- 
five year old British soldier in a trench shortly before he was killed during World War 
I. It concludes: 

But the Old Man ... slew his son, 

And half the seed of Europe, one by one. 


the first creation narrative (Genesis chapter 1), Abraham is listening to Elohim. 
At this point in human history, Elohim, like Molokh, requires what £/ 41 and 
his divine relatives have always required— the blood of the beloved. 

Elohim has much older roots in Semitic pagan culture and history than 
does YHWH. El and its variations are names of God or the gods that were 
shared by both the Canaanites speaking Ugaritic and the Israelites speak- 
ing Hebrew. Elohim, the major biblical name for God, found more than two 
thousand times in the Tanakh, has a plural ending. It is interesting to note 
that, even within the Hebrew Bible itself, Elohim signifies both the one God 
of Israel and the many gods or even goddesses of Israels neighbors. 
Thou shalt have no other gods [elohim] before Me. 42 

And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto 
The Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods [elohim] 
and Ashtarot from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, 
and serve Him only; and He will deliver you out of the hands of the 
Philistines. 43 

For all the gods [elohim] of the nations are idols; but the Lord made the 
heavens. 44 

For Solomon went after Ashtarot, the goddess [elohim] of the Zidonians, 
and after Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites. 45 

YHWH, the name of God used for the first time in the second creation 
narrative (Genesis chapter two), on the other hand, is a personal name for 
the God of Israel. YHWH is never used in the Hebrew Bible to signify gods 
or goddesses, and is uniformly singular. 

The most graphic example of how Judaism combines the Elohim of the first 
creation narrative with the YHWH of the second creation narrative is found 
in the synagogue liturgy. Twice a day, the worshiper recites the Shema, the 
affirmation of Gods oneness, with its blessings. As prescribed by the rabbis 
in the Mishnah two thousand years ago, the Shema is always preceded by 
two benedictions. 

In the first benediction antecedent to the Shema, Gods creation of the 
natural world is praised and blessed. 

41 El is the ancient personal name of God in the Ugaritic Canaanite language. 

42 The Ten Commandments, Exodus 20: 30. 

43 1 Samuel 7: 3. 

44 Psalms 96: 5. 

45 1 Kings 11: 5. 


Blessed are You, YHWH, our God, King of the universe, Who forms light 
and creates darkness, makes peace and creates all He Who illuminates 
the earth and those who dwell upon it, with compassion; and in His 
goodness renews daily, perpetually, the work of creation. How great are 
Your works, YHWH, You make them all with wisdom, the world is full 
of Your possessions... May You be blessed, YHWH, our God, beyond the 
praises of Your handiwork and beyond the bright luminaries that You 
have made— may they glorify You— Selah. 46 

In the second benediction recited by the worshiper immediately prior to 
the Shema, Gods personal relationship with Israel is gratefully acknowledged 
and praised. 

With abundant love You have loved us, YHWH, our God; with exceedingly 
great pity have You pitied us. Our Father, our King, for the sake of our 
forefathers who trusted in You and whom You taught the decrees of life, 
may You be equally gracious to us and teach us. Our Father, the merciful 
Father, Who acts mercifully, have mercy upon us, instill in our hearts to 
understand and , to listen, learn, teach, safeguard, perform, and fulfill all 
the words of Your Torahs teaching with love... Blessed are You, YHWH, 
Who chooses His people Israel with love. 47 

And then, in a wonderful example of how the medium is the message, 
the Shema prayer is intoned: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord, our God, is One." 48 
Examining the Hebrew, we find both Elohim (in the third-person posses- 
sive form, Eloheinu, "our Elohim") and YHWH, God of nature and God of 
involvement unified. Hear, O Israel, the Lord (YHWH, the God with Whom 

46 This text is from the Yotser Or, the benediction recited in the morning prayer 
service (Shaharit) in most synagogues. See the ArtScroll Prayer Book, Scherman (1984) 
p. 87. The same theme can be found in the similar Shema benediction, HaMa'ariv 
Aravim, recited in the evening service (Maariv in Ashkenazic nomenclature, Arvit in 
Sephardic terminology). See the ArtScroll Prayer Book (Ashkenazic rite), Scherman 
(1984) pp. 258-259; and the Book of Prayers, De Sola Pool (1983) p. 131. In this and the 
next passage, I translated HaShem ("The Name" in Orthodox usage) back to YHWH. 

47 This text is from the Ahavah Rabbah, the benediction recited in the Shaharit 
service in most synagogues. See the ArtScroll Prayer Book (Ashkenazic rite), Scherman 
(1984) pp. 89-91. (The Sephardic equivalent of this benediction uses slightly different 
wording plus the title, Ahavat Olam— "Everlasting Love"— see the Book of Prayers, 
De Sola Pool (1983) p. 54.) The same theme can be found in the similar pre-Shema 
benediction recited in the Maariv / Arvit service, Ahavat Olam (whose title is used 
in the Sephardic rite for the Shaharit benediction as well, see the Book of Prayers, De 
Sola Pool (1983) p.131. 

48 See the ArtScroll Prayer Book, Scherman (1984): pp. 90-91 (Shaharit); pp. 
258-259 (Maariv). Also see the Book of * Prayers, De Sola Pool (1983) p.132 (Arvit). 


you have a personal and direct relationship, the God of the second pre-Shema 
benediction, the God from the Garden of Eden), our God (Elohim, the God 
Who created the material world from afar, the God of the first benediction 
and creation account), the Lord (YHWH repeated) is one. And so, twice a 
day, when the worshiper recites the Shema — Bereshit and Eden, Elohim and 
YHWH, transcendent creator and caring parent, God of nature and Involve- 
ment — are declared "one and the same" 

Just so, a stunning and remarkable aspect of the Akedah text is that it is 
the divine name Elohim Who orders Abraham to sacrifice his son, while it 
is the messenger-angel of a different divine name, YHWH, Who abruptly 
stops the action. 

When Abraham arrives at the top of Moriah, with only his son as human 
witness, Abraham hears a new voice, a new God. This God is a God of per- 
sonal relationship and involvement, compassion and ethics. YHWH, and 
His messengers, do not require human blood as sacrifice. On the contrary, 
YHWH and His court thoroughly detest the practice. 

When the angel calls to Abraham from heaven the first time, Abraham still 
hears the voice of the primordial God with the old command. By the time the 
angel calls the second time from heaven, Abraham has changed. As the Zohar 
says, 49 Abraham has become an "other" with new ears. Abraham is now, for 
the first time, able to hear a brand new divine message. What Abraham hears 
with his new ears is that human life is sacred above all things. 

What made it possible for Abraham to hear the new and different voice 
on Mount Moriah? How did Abraham become a monotheist that day? What 
was it that led to Abraham s transformation? 

The answer is twofold. First, Abraham became exquisitely aware of himself. 
The three days of silent torment, his slow and excruciating pilgrimage to 
Moriah, was Abrahams transformative experience, his "self analysis." Many 
cultures from different epochs describe how self awareness is essential to 
an individual choosing a new choice. For the Delphi Oracle, it was, "Know 
thyself." 50 For John in the Christian Gospel, it was, "the truth shall make you 
free." 51 For Maimonides, it was self awareness as the basis of fshuvah, true 
repentance. 52 For Freud, it was making the unconscious conscious. 53 

49 Zohar 1, 120b. See Zornberg (2002). 

50 Inscription on the shrine to Apollo in Delphi. 

51 John 8: 32. 

52 Maimonides (1970). 

53 Freud (1915). 


Second, on Moriah, when Abraham bound his son on the altar, perhaps for 
the first time in Isaac s life, Abraham saw Isaac. Before this, Abraham may have 
viewed Isaac as an instrument of his own hopes and plans, or as a confirma- 
tion of God fulfilling a promise He had made to Abraham, or as a precious 
fruit of Sarahs and his aged marriage. Moriah and the altar forced Abraham 
to look directly into Isaac s eyes and face, and as a result, to see God. 

We know that it is much more difficult to hurt the other when we see the 
other as a self, when we truly apprehend the other s personhood. The exis- 
tential philosophers refer to this as recognizing the other as subject. 54 The 
cognitive psychologists, who have researched the maturational development 
of this capacity in children, describe this phenomenon as, "every you' is an 
T to the you.'" 55 It is this same human capacity that Carl Rogers 56 and Heinz 
Kohut 57 refer to as, "empathy," the psychotherapists most important agent 
of therapeutic change. For the rabbis of the Talmud and Muhammad in the 
Koran, it is the teaching that whoever destroys a single life destroys the world; 
and whoever saves a single life saves the entire world. 58 

In addition, the recognition of the other as self is the essential teaching of 
the single most radical statement of universal and ethical monotheism in any 
sacred text— that each of us, without exception or qualification, is created 
in God s image. 59 

So, in the Akedah, when Abraham is at the verge of sacrificing his son, 
bound and terrified on the altar, who is this Isaac to Abraham? What does 
this Isaac symbolize for us in this shared cultural dream? 

First, Isaac represents all those who depend upon us for their very survival, 
dignity and contentment. Isaac represents all those who follow us, sometimes 
unaware, where we are leading them— for example, our children, our spouses, 
our parents, our colleagues, employees and employers, our friends. Isaac 
represents all those in our lives who are positively and negatively impacted 
by our choices and behavior. 

Second, Isaac represents the most profound and hidden psychological level 
of each of us. We each carry within us a terrified and helpless Isaac, bound to 
our altars, from whom we distance ourselves, and often disavow. 

54 Sartre (1905). 

55 See especially Omdahl (1995). 

56 Rogers (1951). 

57 Kohut (1976). 

58 BT Sanhedrin 37a and Koran Sura 5: 32. 

59 Genesis 1: 27. 


Last, Isaac, for us as well as for Abraham, represents our dreams, our aspi- 
rations, our meaning, our life's purpose. For Abraham, standing over his son 
in that barren and isolated mountain, knife in hand, Isaac was his and Gods 
single link to the future. It was this bound and about- to-be-slaughtered Isaac 
who was Abrahams and God s only hope for monotheism. 

Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, "Man must strive for the summit to survive 
on the ground." 60 And yet, too often do we, like Abraham in the Akedah, try 
to level and destroy our own mountaintops. 

Abraham s struggle with himself on Mount Moriah is our struggle. We 
need to grapple with our own paganism that sees ourselves— and others— as a 
means to an end. We, like Abraham on Moriah, need to become true monothe- 
ists who have a profound reverence for human life— our own and others! 

What these sparse, troubling, complex and multi-layered nineteen verses 
of the Torah teach us is that human transformation is possible, though only 
when we find the God within each of us Who forcefully restrains our arm 
when we— like Abraham— are all too ready to slaughter our Isaacs. 


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Euripides. (1981). Ten Plays. New York: Bantum Books. 

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Dennis G. Shulman, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist-psychoanalyst with a private prac- 
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Reading the Liturgy through the Spectacles of Theology: 
The Case of U-n'taneh Tokef 

by Neil Gillman 

First of all, no human being knows what God really is. We don t have pho- 
tographs of God. What we do have, I think, are humanly crafted metaphors. 
Human beings have experiences of God, they capture those experiences in 
human language. Each human language uses materials that are familiar to 
us from every day life. Adonai ro'i lo ehsar (God is a Shepherd). Tsur Yisrael, 
kumah b'-ezrat Yisrael (God is a military hero). Avinu Malkeinu (God is a 
parent, God is a sovereign), and there are many, many more. What I do then 
is look at all the liturgical texts for examples. I study Adon Olam, which is 
one of the most profound theological texts we have. You would never know it 
because you sing it to get at the Oneg Shabbat quickly, but it is an unusually 
profound text. And the image there is that God is everything, Adon Olam, 
"Lord of all there is." 

And yet, God is very close (b'-yado afkid ruhi)— and very intimate (v'-Hu 
Eili v'-Hai Go'ali). The message is: total security, just as in Psalm 91— Yosheiv 
B'-seiterElyon — which also bears images of God s protection. And at the other 
extreme we have images of God abandoning us— in Psalm 44 (titneinu k'-tson 
ma'akhal, "You let them devour us like sheep")— which is really a Holocaust 
Psalm. And then we get into actual liturgical texts, and one of the first that I 
began to study was U-n'taneh Tokefbecsuse what I found in it is an extraor- 
dinary example of how a metaphor of God is transformed within the context 
of the piyyut In other words, God begins with one image and by the end that 
initial image is tossed out and a completely new image emerges. 

So this is not simple like Psalm 23, Adonai ro'i lo ehsar, where you have 
pretty much one consistent metaphor and the entire Psalm is crafted on 
the basis of that metaphor. What you have here is a complex metaphor that 
evolves in the course of the piyyut And much more interesting to me is that 
the evolution that the image of God undergoes in the course of the piyyut is a 
kind of microcosm of the transformation in our own feelings that we undergo 
in the course of the Yamim Nora im experience. So two things are taking 
place here at the same time. There is a theological/literary dimension. The 
text takes the image of God and plays with it, and stretches it, and expands it, 
and undermines it, and supports it, and turns it on its head; and at the same 
time that the text does it, we do it too, internally. 


Now, this assumes that U-n'taneh Tokef is the actual climax, the dramatic 
high point of the Yamim Nora'im liturgy, and this is interesting because I don't 
think it was intended to be that way. U-n'taneh Tokef is a superb example of 
where popular religion supercedes halakhah, rabbinic law. It's much easier 
to get rid of Malkhuyot-Zikhronot-Shofarot, as I've discovered, than it is to 
get rid of U-n'taneh Tokef or Kol Nidre, for that matter. Yet Kol Nidre and 
U-n'taneh Tokef have absolutely no halakhic standing whatsoever. 

My misfortune was that although I had almost no formal Jewish education, 
I grew up in a very old traditional shul. It was in Quebec City, there were 
almost no Jews around at all, but I had a father who was a shul Jew and who 
took me with him to shul. For as far back as I can remember, I went to shul. 
He never allowed me to go to the Junior Congregation. He said, that's not the 
way you're going to learn to daven. If you want to learn how to daven, you're 
going to sit next to me. So I sat next to him and I learned how to daven. I 
remember being this little kid standing in a men's shul, surrounded by older 
people with long beards and saying to myself, who of these people is not go- 
ing to be here next Rosh HaShanah? Who was here last year that is not here 
this year? Who is here this year and is not going to be here next year? As the 
Sephardim say, Tikhleh shanah v'-kil'loteha, taheilshanah u-virkhoteha (let 
a year end with its curses, and let another begin with blessings). U-n'taneh 
Tokef is the turning point. It's the fulcrum. You look back, you look forward. 
You say goodbye, you say hello. This is the essence of Rosh HaShanah. In 
scholarly language we call it the liminal moment, it's the threshold moment. 
Something ends, something begins. 

Every Shabbos something ends, something begins. On Rosh Hodesh the 
same thing happens. Most great ritual events are turning points. I am con- 
vinced that, though this is not originally what the rabbis intended, U-n'taneh 
Tokef is the turning point of the service. It is here that we experience the inter- 
nal transformation that's to take place at this season, and that turning point, 
that transformation, is a transformation from a sense of being judged, from a 
sense of doom, to a sense of being accepted and forgiven. We move from the 
sense that I am inadequate, I am unworthy, to the sense that in God's hands 
all can be forgiven, and my possibilities for a new start are endless. Now that's 
what happens in the t'fillah and you can see this specifically by just reading 
what happens to the image of God in the text itself, how God changes in the 
text. Again, this is not a text that has one straightforward paradigmatic im- 
age of God. This is a text in which the image of God is totally fluid, in which 
the text subverts itself. 


It begins with the image of God A, and ends with the image of God B where 
B turns A on its head, and that takes place within the course of the prayer. 
This is not only religiously and spiritually the high point, the most powerful 
moment, the most impressive moment of the service, but also the moment 
of the service where you really get the feeling in your guts of just what Rosh 
HaShanah and Yom Kippur are supposed to mean in the Jewish sensibility. 

Now, the last thing I want to do is a typical JTS Wissenschaft des Judentums 
("Science of Judaism") analysis of this liturgy. We know the legend, it was one 
of the many, many myths that the Seminary shattered — in my own theologi- 
cal education— when my professor said at the beginning that its author, Rav 
Amnon, never lived, and if he lived he wasn't a rabbi, and besides its not a 
12 th -to-13 th century piyyut but probably goes back to the late 8 th century and 
bears unmistakable traces of the Byzantine Mass for the Dead. Do you know 
where you find that? In Eric Werner's The Sacred Bridge (1959). He has an 
"Excursus on the Hebrew and Byzantine Antecedents of the Dies Irae" (pages 
252-255) which is brilliant. It'll destroy U-n'taneh Tokef for you completely, 
if you want to let it, because the piyyut shares theological and literary motifs 
with Christian hymnody. 

But let 's ignore all that. Ignore your JTS Wissenschaft. What I want to do 
with you is simply read the text as it is. Forget where it came from, lets just 
read the text in terms of what it is. At a certain point this text became what it 
is, and at a certain point it got into the Mahzor. At a certain point Jews began 
to recite it, and our concern should be: what is its impact today? 

In terms of the piyyut 's setting, we recite it immediately before K'dushat 
Musaf; the end of the text leads right into the K'dushah. One of the interest- 
ing issues on this text is, exactly where does U-n'taneh Tokef end? For that 
matter, where does Nishmat Kol Hai end? Does it end before Ha-Eill Does 
it end before HaMelekhl Does it end before Uv'-mak'halotl Or does it end 
at the b'rakhahl I asked Professor Menahem Schmeltzer (my piyyut expert), 
"where does it end"? He said, "who knows where it ends?" My sense is that 
it ends with u-sh'meinu karata bi-sh'mekha. Then, Asei I'ma'an sh'mekha 
is already the beginning of K'dushah, that's my sense. But we'll see. So, we 
begin. U-n'taneh tokef k'dushat ha-yorn— "Let us acknowledge the power of 
the day!" 

Incidentally, I wanted to say one other thing in relation to Rav Amnon. 
This is one of those rare instances where I think the text fueled the legend 
rather than the other way around. In most instances where you have a story 
or a legend connected with a text, it is the legend that keeps the text alive. In 


this instance, I think the text itself is so powerful that it is the text that has 
kept the legend alive. 

So here we have the famous Midrash that God sits originally on the Throne 
of Justice and then gets up from the Throne of Justice when God hears the 
prayers of Israel. He gets up from the Throne of Justice and sits on the Throne 
of Compassion. So we move immediately from justice to compassion, from 
tsedek to hesed. V'-teishev alav be'emet — "You sit upon it firmly." However, 
be-emet is not "in truth," you don t sit in truth. Emet Ve-emunah gives us the 
clue. It means loyalty; I am committed, firm. So You, God, sit on this chair 
firmly committed to judge us. 

And now, who is this God who is sitting on this chair? Look at the way the 
metaphor just sort of explodes. Emet Id atah hu dayyan— "You are Judge." 
U-mokhi'ah— "You are the prosecutor." V'-yodei'a va'eid— "You are the wit- 
ness." V'-khoteiv v'-hoteirn — "You are the court stenographer who keeps the 
records." V'-sofeir u-moneh — "You are the accountant who counts them." V'- 
tizkor kol ha-nishkahot— -"You, God, are the ultimate databank." What is this 
unbelievable phrase, zokheir kol ha-nishkahot? Everywhere else in the world, 
people forget. Things that we do are forgotten. Before you, God, nothing is 
forgotten. You remember the forgotten things. 

So look at the way God appears here. Day an: You are judge and prosecutor; 
You count and You record, You are witness and court stenographer. Sofeir 
u-moneh: You are the ultimate databank; everything we Ve ever done, You 
know, its all in the record. V'-tiftah etseifer ha-zikhronot: and You open the 
book; u-mei'eilav yi-karei: and the book is read. V'-hptam yad kol adam bo: 
hotam yad is of course, myself, my identity, that which makes me, me — the 
hand, the fingerprint, the signature of every one of us is in that book. 

So the scene is the Heavenly court, and in this Heavenly court, I have come 
up for judgement. And who am I facing? I am facing the ultimate judge, 
prosecutor, witness, stenographer and databank where everything I've ever 
done is known, is all in the book. And the book is open, and the book is read. 
And I am there in the book. Every one of us is there in the book. Is there 
any wonder why, when we read this, we begin to cry every year, predictably 
begin to cry? This is terrifying. This is terrifying because you take the thing 
seriously. In other words, this thing is actually going on, up there, now, today; 
no symbolic metaphorical stuff, right? It's the real thing. 

I think its important that we understand it as the real thing, and 111 try 
to show how I do that. This is the ultimate court of judgment, and I'm up 
before the bar of judgment, and God is everything. God has all the roles. The 


text continues. U-v'shofar gadol yi-taka: "a great shofar is sounded" V'-kol 
d'mamah dakah yi-shama "a still, small voice is heard ." It's from the Eiliyahu 
HaNavi stories (I Kings 19:12), of course. Instead of "a still small voice," I 
translate this as "the sound of silence" kol d'mamah. The still sound of silence 
is heard, angels tremble, they're shaken. V'-yom'ru hineiyom ha-din — "and 
they say, 'its the Day of Judgment.'" Li-f'kod al ts'va marom ba-din: "God 
comes to judge us today." Ki lo yizku v'-einekha ba-din: "indeed, no one is 
guiltless in Your eyes." V'-khol ba'ei olam ta'avir V-fanekha ki-v'nei marom 
"all humankind passes before You like a flock of sheep." Now, the scholarship 
on ki-v'nei maron is that it's not "as a flock of sheep" but rather as a military 
review where soldiers pass before the reviewing stand. That is the scholarly 

Did the author understand it that way? I think not, because I think that the 
metaphor changes. The very next sentence begins, k'-vakarat ro'eh edro: "as a 
shepherd musters his flock." It's fascinating to me that the hazzan begins the 
repetition of this piyyut most frequently at k'-vakarat And it's interesting 
that the melodies for k'-vakarat are very pastoral and lyric, and that is the 
first point in the entire t'fillah where there is a measure of softness. Until now, 
it's very, very hard. It's very powerful, it's very dramatic and it's very serious. 
God is judge, prosecutor, court stenographer, witness, the whole thing, right? 
There is no defense attorney in all of this. There is no defense attorney, and 
God forces all of us to pass in review. The book is read and our names are 
there, and it's accountability. 

But do we pass before God as the commanding general, or do we pass 
before God as a shepherd? Those are two very different things. So, whatever 
ki-v'nei maron was originally, what the author meant by it, I think is delib- 
erately ambiguous. He may have known that it was a military review. Or he 
may have used it also to mean "sheep" — and then followed it with k'-vakarat 
ro'eh edro ma'avir tsono tahatshivto; kein ta'-avir v'-tispor v'-timneh v'-tifl<od 
nefesh kol hai; v'-tahtokh kitsvah I'-khol b'riyah v'-tikhtov etg'zar dinam. The 
soft, deceptively pastoral note that hazzanim generally introduce at k'-vakarat 
is totally out of place here because the meaning of the text is hard. Once a 
shepherd causes the flock to pass before him, he singles out those who are 
going to be axed, right? kein ta'-avir v'-tispor v'-timneh v'-tiflwd nefesh kol 
hai: "You visit, You count, You appoint, You consider every living thing." But 
then: v'-tahtokh: "You cut;" kitsvah: "You make an end" to khol b'riyah: "every 
creature," and You write their judgment. 

So, the k'-vakarat is deceptive here. It sounds nurturing, but it's not. This 
shepherd is not a nurturing shepherd. This metaphor is much more charac- 


teristic of the entire first half of the piyyut where God is judge, prosecutor, 
witness, stenographer, reads the sentence, ultimate databank, its all recorded, 
my signature is there, God looks at every living thing, decides who's going to 
live and who's going to die, makes, decides everybody's death. Now, I submit 
that classically, this shaped the sensibility of the Jew as he or she entered the 
Rosh HaShanah/Yom Kippur season. It was looked at as the time when our 
fates are decided upon for the year. This, I think, made it much more impor- 
tant than Malkhuyot-Zikhronot-Shofarot I think that, as the late Chancellor 
Gershon Cohen said after the JTS faculty decided to take up the issue of 
ordaining women the first time, around 1979: "something very important 
happened today." I said, "what was it?" He said, "I learned that religion is more 
powerful than halakhah." 

This, too, is a case where religion is much more powerful than halakhah. 
This is popular religion. This is not the academy. This is not the Yeshivah 
world. There is no halakhic standing to this whatsoever. It's like Kol Nidre. 
There is absolutely no halakhic standing to the recitation of Kol Nidre on the 
eve of Yom Kippur. But U-n'taneh Tokef 'had much more impact on shaping 
the sensibility of Am Yisrael than did the halakhic prayers. That was because 
of the sheer power of the metaphor. So you have to understand that until 
modernity, Jews read this and understood it as mamash, namely, they saw 
the Heavenly court gathering, and they saw themselves in that court, and 
they saw the final judgment, and they saw God judging and prosecuting 
and witnessing and recording and the databank, and the book being read. 
Think how many of our kids who had the pleasure/misfortune of studying 
in a traditional Yeshivah have come home in a state of terror on erev Rosh 
HaShanah and asked: "where is my name, am /in the Good Book?"— because 
of the vividness of the metaphor. 

Admittedly, there is a difference between this text and Kol Nidre. In hos- 
pitals just before the High Holy Days a hazzan will visit patients and chant 
the Kol Nidre for them. And I think what moves people with Kol Nidre is not 
what it says, because what it says is extremely dry and legalistic, but rather 
the melody. In the case of U-n'taneh Tokef, I think it's the actual text, and 
the proof is that there are many melodies for U-n'taneh Tokef and only one 
for Kol Nidre. 

I'm not terribly interested in the next paragraph, B'-Rosh HaShanah, which 
just makes the image even more vivid and concrete. But it ends with mi 
yei'ani u-miyei-asheir, miyi-shafeitu-miyarum: "who shall become poor and 
who rich, who shall be lowered and who raised?" All of this is ^peirush, an 
unpacking oiv'-tikhtov et g'zar dinam: "You inscribe their fate; these are the 


possibilities." Well, he could have stopped with v'-tikhtov etg'zar dinam and 
then said u-t'shuvah u-t'fillah u-ts'dakah: "but repentance, prayer and charity 
cancel the stern decree ." But he didn't! He said v'-tikhtov etg'zar dinam. And 
then he says, okay, you want me to be more specific? Here, let 's go: miyihyeh 
u-mi yamut: "who shall live and who shall die," etc. So that is the climax, I 
think, or the conclusion, the closure to the first half of the piyyut, at which 
point we, the kahal say, "no!" The kahal answers with u-t'shuvah u-t'fillah 
u-ts'dakah ma'avirin et ro'a ha-g'zeirah. 

Now, with this you can do an interesting addendum to your dissertation 
on congregational liturgical outbursts. Technically speaking, we're sup- 
posed to say U-n'taneh Tokef to ourselves. We stand, we say the whole thing 
and then the hazzan picks up. But what exactly am I supposed to say? Am I 
supposed to say to mi y arum or am I supposed to say to the end of the next 
page? I think I'm supposed to say to miya-rum, then the hazzan is supposed 
to pick up wherever he-or-she picks up, and then stops at mi ya-rum. And 
then, we say in protest, "No— u-t'shuvah u-t'fillah u-ts'dakah ma'avirin etro'a 
ha-g'zeirah\ What does this say? Let's think it through clearly. What it says is: 
hey, stop, this is not the last judgment. This is in no way the last judgment, 
and Mr. Pay y 'tan, you've done a wonderful job in building up the drama of 
this thing. Shofars and angels and books are being read and still small voices 
are being heard, and everybody is shaking and terrified and things like that. 
And God is the judge, prosecutor, witness, court stenographer, etc., etc. And 
g'zar dinam is being written. But we say: nonsense. It's not g'zar dinam. No 
g'zar dinam is being written. It's a very tentative, wishy-washy g'zar dinam. 
Because: u-t'shuvah u-t'fillah u-ts'dakah ma'avirin et ro'a ha-g'zeirah. 

Now, what does that mean? And of course as you know, there are two dif- 
ferent p'shat readings. One is that it means cancel the evil decree; and the 
other is, cancel or avert the ro'a ha-g'zeirah, the severity of the decree. One 
of the differences between the Silverman and the Harlow Mahzorim is that 
Silverman says avert the severe decree, and Harlow says avert the severity 
o/the decree. I would like to suggest that it's the first. The payy'tan knew 
Hebrew just as well as we do. He could have said et ro'at ha-g'zeirah, but he 
didn't. He said etro'a ha-g'zeirah. And that's the same zsg'zeirah ra'ah, except 
that it rhymes and the rhythm is better with ts'dakah. Besides, I'-ha'avir does 
not necessarily mean "to cancel." It means, "to avert," to avoid it. It doesn't 
imply "am I going to die?" Absolutely I'm going to die, but it doesn't have to 
be now, it can be put off. 

How is that done? Amazingly, by sending me back. The payy'tan sends me 
back to the normal everyday things that I'm supposed to do as a Jew. Mainly, 


I'm supposed to do fshuvah, I'm supposed to daven, and I'm supposed to 
do g'milut hasadim. So, its not apolcalyptic, and its not Big Bang end of the 
world— the Last Judgment. It takes place every Rosh HaShanah/Yom Kippur, 
and its not final. And how do I diffuse the drama of the whole scenario? By 
doing the things that I am normally expected to do as a Jew, the everyday 
responsibilities that every Jew has all the time: fshuvah; ffillah; ts'dakah. 

I want to come back to that in a second, but why is it that fshuvah/ffillah/ 
tz'dakah work? What is the reason for their efficacy? Because we thought of 
God as dayan u-mokhi'ah— judge and prosecutor. Angels were coming, big 
macho blustering God, all the angels are terrified— it's the Last Judgment. 
But now it turns out that You re not that kind of God at all. And suddenly 
the metaphor changes completely. Suddenly You are kasheh lich'os v'-no'ah 
li-r'tsot. You re a soft touch. Ki lo tahpots b'-mot ha-meit— You don't want 
this business of tahtokh kitsvah V-khol beriyah/ mi yihyeh u-mi ya-mut. You 
don t do this at all. Ki im b'-shuvo mi-darko v'-hayah — You want fshuvah and 
continued life. V'-adyom moto f-hakeh lo, im ya-shuv miy-yad f-kablo. Not 
only do You like fshuvah, You are a soft touch, fshuvah-sort of God. Until the 
very end of my life, I have a sliver of open door. For my entire lifetime, until 
the very, very end of my life— if I do fshuvah— miy-yad f-kablo. You wait for 
me until the very last moment of my life and You leave a sliver of openness, 
a tiny crack. But I can still get in through the door, even though I am about 
to die. Why? Because of the second Emet. 

We began with: Emet ki atah hu dayyan u-mokhi'ah. In other words, the 
first part of the metaphor presents the big macho God. Judge, prosecutor, 
etc. begins with the first emet. And now, the payy'tan is telling you, I'm 
beginning with emet again, but with this emet, Im giving you an entirely 
different image. And sure enough, the image is transformed before my eyes. 
Emet ki atah hu yots'ram v'-atah yodei'a yitsram, ki heim basar va-dam. You 
are their Creator. The atah yodei'a yitsram here does not mean yeitser ha-ra 
vs. yeitser ha-tov. It means the manner in which they were created: va-yitser 
Adonai et ha-adam afar min ha-adamah. That's B'Reishit 2: 7; God created 
"man"— adam, "dust from the earth"— afar min ha-adamah. This is the text 
that's being metaphorized here. Atah hu yots'ram... atah yodei'a yitsram... 
basar va-dam... adam y'sodo mei-afar v'-sofo le-afar. 

This is all in answer to the question: why are You so quick to accept our 
fshuvah? The answer is because You know how we were created. You know 
what we are. And I would like to suggest that the subtext of this answer is, 


not only do You know who we are, You are in a sense co-responsible for 
what we are. You made us this way. So God, You don t have a choice. This big 
blustering macho God of the first part is absolutely reduced to being a patsy. 
Because what does the payy'tan do? And what do we do as a result? We re- 
mind God of the fact that: listen, if we sinned, it is because You made us this 
way. So You are as much responsible for our sinfulness as we are. Therefore, 
You Ve got to keep the door open for us until the very last moment And this 
is a complex midrash on va-yitser Adonai et ha-adam afar min ha-adamah. 
You have it all in the piyyut: ki hu yodei'a yitsram; and then, adam y'sodo 
mei-afur v'-sofo le-afar. This is all a reference to the Genesis story, including 
b'-nafsho yavi lahrno. 

Adam ha-rishon— the first human— was punished. One of the punish- 
ments was that humans had to sweat: b'-zei'at apekha tokhal lehem— "by the 
sweat of your brow shall you eat bread." B'-nafsho here does not mean "with 
his soul," but "with his life." We work, we expend our life force working for 
bread, and then— look at the futility. Mashul k'-heres hanishbar— "like a bro- 
ken potsherd," k'-hatsir yaveish— "like withered grass," k'-tsits noveil — "like a 
faded flower," k'-tseil oveir — "like a fleeting shadow," k'- anan kalah — "like a 
passing cloud,"— k'-ru'ah noshavet— "like a blowing wind," ukh'-'avakporei'ah 
—"like floating dust," v'kha-halom ya'uf— "like a vanished dream." These 
are all images of vulnerability, of fragility. This says: look how You made us, 
God. And all of this is prefaced by emet. And all of this emet is prefaced by a 
completely different version of the metaphor for God. And the turning point 
of the piyyut is fshuvah / ffillah / 'ts'dakah, which we shout out in protest to 
the first two paragraphs. And by doing so we say to the payy'tan: "no," in a 
kind of antiphonal response. To the entire first two paragraphs up to u-mi 
yarum we shout out: "no, no, no, stop, no its not true! It's not true: fshuvah 
u-ffillah u-ts'dakah ma'avirin et ro'a ha-g'zeirah. 

Its not final, and it's not apocalyptic. It's not terrible and terrifying; it's 
every day, and there are ways out. And why are there ways out? Because of 
the second emet, because this God is not that kind of God. This God is a 
soft- touch guy. He waits for us. And there's more. Suddenly there appears the 
missing metaphor from the entire court scene. Who was not present in that 
court scene? What was the piece of the "court" metaphor that was missing? 
The defense attorney! We now have a defense attorney. God has now be- 
come the defense attorney as well. So since You made us in this totally fragile 
kind of way, You have to accept our fshuvah, because adyom moto t'-khakeh 
lo. We are totally vulnerable, v'-atah hu melekh eil hai v'-kayam — "You are 
everlasting." Therefore, we are in Your hands. 


The reason I'm convinced that Ein kitsvah li-sh'notekha is still part of the 
piyyut is because of v'-tahtokh kitsvah I'-khol b' riyah earlier on. One of the 
things You do is to decree a boundary, an end, a keits for everybody that lives, 
whereas You have no keits. Ein kitzvah li-sh'notekha — "no end of years." V'-ein 
keits I'-orekh yamekha — "no end of days" V'-ein I'-sha'eir mark'vot k'vodekha 
—"inconceivable Your glory" V'-ein l'-fareish Hum sh'mekha— "and no ex- 
plaining Your mystery" Shimkha na'eh I'-kha v'-atah na'eh li-sh'mekha — "Your 
name befits You" U-sh'meinu karata bi-sh'mekha — "and our name is linked 
to Yours" That is the final blockbuster of the prayer. Look God, it's not as if 
You are God and we— Your people— are separate. We re not; we re linked, 
Your fate is linked to ours. How You treat Israel will determine how You are 
treated in the world. Our name is forever linked with Your name: u-sh'meinu 
karata bi-sh'mekha— "our name and Your name are one. Our destinies are 
linked, and therefore, the final appeal of U-n'taneh Tokef is to the brit — the 
Covenant — the relationship with God. 

So now, let's go back. Why do we read this? Largely because of what happens 
to the very complex system of metaphors for God. And here's my heresy: the 
metaphors are humanly crafted. Our people way, way back understood this 
day as Yom HaDin, yet Rosh HaShanah is nothing in Tanakh. Instead, the 
Yom Kippur mood moves backwards, and Rosh HaShanah becomes part of 
the Yamim Nora'im. The mood goes back even to Rosh Hodesh Elul, when 
we begin to blow the shofar. And we begin reciting s'lihot a week before, so 
there's a lot of buildup to the judgment metaphor: Rosh HaShanah/Yom Kip- 
pur, a season of judgment and accountability. 

We have to go before God, and the prayer captures this beautifully. It is 
the Yom HaDin. It is the ultimate Day of Judgment that takes place on high. 
There are two scenarios here, two sets. There is the human set, the set where 
we live, this shul, this hazzan, this rabbi, these balebatim in real time and 
space. And there is the transcendent court up there: God; angels; shofars; open 
books; hotam yad kol adam bo; voices are heard; names are read; everybody 
trembles; and God sits; and we pass before God; and God metes out judg- 
ment to every human being. Where is this taking place? Up there. And we 
are down here. What is the impact of this prayer? The impact of this prayer 
is that the transcendent world of Yom HaDin and the real world in which 
you and I live become one. All of the Aggadah about Rosh HaShanah and 
Yom Kippur which we imagine takes place up there at this moment, enters 
into our world through this piyyut and becomes one. And that is why we cry. 
That is why we read this prayer with trepidation. 


When my father read it with trepidation, it was because he really believed 
that this was taking place up there. My own sense is that its not taking place 
up there, its taking place down here. And either we are scooted up there, or 
they are scooted down here, but the two trials, the two days of judgement 
are fused and are taking place simultaneously. This is tremendously impor- 
tant—this is the key, I think, to understanding great ritual. What happens at 
the wedding ceremony's Sheva B'rakhot? The Gan Eiden where God performs 
Adam and Eve's wedding and the wedding site of this couple become one. 
What happens at the end of the Passover Seder? Eiliyahu HaNavi enters the 
room, and the Exodus from Egypt and our own re-enactment of the Exodus 
become one. Two worlds fuse* 

The trouble with these two worlds fusing is that they are not really one. 
It's just an imaginative fusing, its a sort of mythic fusing, if you will. And what 
happens at the end of the Seder? We open the door. And why do we open the 
door? I think we open the door because opening the door is like saying: yes, 
we are redeemed from slavery— mythically, theoretically, theologically. But 
in reality when we open the door, we see that the world is not redeemed and 
that people have not been liberated, and that even we are not liberated. It's 
like a return to history. That's what the breaking of the glass is at the end of a 
wedding. It's no zeikher V-hurban, it's a return to history. It's not remember- 
ing the destruction that was, it symbolizes the destruction that will be. In 
other words, we send the couple out into the real world. They come out from 
under the huppah and they're no longer in this mythic world of Yirmiyahu 
and kol sason v'-kol sirnhah. They're in the real world, and the real world is 
not redeemed yet, so we break the glass, we break the spell. We scoot the 
transcendent world back to where it belongs and the couple comes back into 
history. I think this is what happens with U-n'taneh Tokef. And this is what 
f-shuvah/ffillah/ts'-dakah does, it brings us back from myth into history. 

This whole understanding of the way in which mythic worlds and the 
real world meet and fuse and then separate comes from an extraordinarily 
powerful book on the anthropology of religion by the late Clifford Geertz, 
who taught at Princeton. The book is called The Interpretation of Cultures, 
specifically chapter 4. The title of the chapter is "Religion as a Cultural System." 
Note the term: religion not as a theological system; but religion as a cultural 
system. How is it that communities create religious traditions? What is the 
role of the community in shaping what a religious tradition is going to be like? 
What is the role of human beings? It's religion not from the perspective of 
God, but religion from the perspective of human beings. How did religions 
evolve in the history of human communities? How did all of this happen? 


Geertz discusses the relationship between ritual and this transcendent 
world that religion creates, namely a world in which there's God and there are 
judges and the supreme court. What happens at great moments of ritual, he 
says, is that the transcendent world that religion paints and the real world of 
human beings fuse. They become one, which is what gives this transcendent 
world its "aura of factuality." My father believed that the world up there is 
mamash. On Rosh HaShanah/Yom Kippur he was terrified because what 
was happening was mamash. There is a God, and He 's sitting on a big chair 
up there, and the books are open, and angels are trembling, the shofars are 
blowing, and they are reading my father's name! And the entire world, his life 
that he lived and the year that he had, etc., is up there. This was not fantasy 
for him. 

For me, this is fantasy, but brilliant fantasy! And what does this piyyut 
do? It brings that world back down into shul, into a world where God is no 
longer sitting up there, God is sitting in shul. And the angels are in shul. And 
all of this is going on here in shul. And in the course of saying this piyyut, 
we undergo the transformation from fear and trembling to a sense of relief, 
which is exactly the transformation that I'm supposed to go through on Rosh 
HaShanah/Yom Kippur. I enter Rosh HaShanah with trepidation, I exit at the 
end of Yom Kippur with a sense of relief. How do I get from one to the other? 
I think the turning point in the drama of that whole ten-day period is here. 
And I think that f-shuvah/ffillah/ts'dakah ma'avirin et ro'a ha-g'zeirah says 
that the responsibility is not up there, the responsibility is down here. And 
what is expected of me? Nothing that is not familiar. Nothing that I'm not 
used to doing, but the normal things a Jew does: f-shuvah/ffillah/ts'dakah. 

The vividness of the court scene is what I call fantasy. The fact that on this 
day we believe that we stand in judgment, and that God forgives us for the 
sins that we Ve committed in the past year, that is not fantasy. That, I believe, 
is mamash. That I believe. The court scene in which this takes place, I un- 
derstand that to be fantasy. I must add that what I mean by describing it as 
a "brilliant fantasy" doesn't for a moment diminish the power of the piyyut. 
On Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur when I say this, I am very much moved. 
And I accept it as metaphorically-and-poetically true. Its poetry, and poetry 
can be very, very true. It's not scientifically true, and it's not literally true, but 
it's poetically true. 

And still, even though the metaphor is ultimately broken, and for whatever 
reason I come to the realization that none of this is mamash, I am still able 
to go back into the prayer on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur — and have it 
work for me. 


Neil Gillman is Chair of the Department of Jewish Philosophy at the Jewish Theo- 
logical Seminary, where he served as Dean of the Rabbinical School Recognized as 
one of the leading religious thinkers in America today, he helped write the Conser- 
vative movement's first Statement of principles in 1988, and has since authored: 
Sacred Fragments— Recovering Theology for the Modern Jew (1991); Conservative 
Judaism— A New Century (1993); The Death of Death (1997); and The Way into 
Encountering God in Judaism (2000). This article derives from a talk he gave at the 
Cantors Assembly Jubilee Convention, Marriott at the World Trade Center, New 
York, June 8, 1998. 


R'shuyot 1 for the Sh'lVah Tsibbur— Customs and 

ByAkiva Zimmermann 

The earliest Hebrew prayers were biblical in origin. The briefest example that 
we find in the Torah is one uttered by Moses on behalf of his sister Miriam: 
"God, please heal her" (Numbers 12:13). Rabbinic literature ascribes the 
practice of statutory daily morning, afternoon and evening prayer to Judaisms 
founding figures. Abraham is credited with initiating Shaharit, Isaac with 
initiating Minhah and Jacob with initiating Ma ariv. 2 Contemporary Jews 
who regularly pray three times a day to their Creator are thereby connected 
to Israels patriarchs. 

The earliest generations followed no set liturgy, the Order of Prayer — Seder 
ha-Tfillah — having evolved over many centuries and incorporated wordings 
by countless biblical authors, particularly King David, to whom the Book of 
Psalms is traditionally attributed. The body of prayers that were eventually 
canonized from these sources are considered obligatory. Yet, they present 
every Jew with a precious opportunity to approach God and to pour out the 
deepest longings of his or her heart. Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik referred 
to ffillat hovah (obligatory prayer) as a scenario in which "The Lonely Man 
of Faith" seeks an intimate relationship with God. 3 

To pray is to stand before God. When we do so, prayer is essentially our 
feeling of a relationship with our Creator, expressed through words. Prayer 
and prophecy are synonymous terms for human dialogue with God. Prayer 
communities arose when the era of prophecy ended — prayer representing 
the continuation of prophecy, and worshipers comprising a community 
of prophets. The only difference is that in the covenant of prophecy, God 
opens the dialogue and humans listen, while in the covenant of prayer 
humans speak first and God listens equally attentively. 4 

The history of. Seder ha-T'fillah is a bit more interesting than that of proph- 
ecy since prayers were not written down in ancient times and each sh'li'ah 
tsibbur followed his own version when it came to specific texts. Even after 

1 Rshuyot (singular: Rshut) are religious poems asking "Permission," recited by 
the prayer leader before beginning a new section of the liturgy. 

2 Babylonian Talmud, B'rakhot, 26b. 

3 In his book of the same title, 1965. 

4 From Rabbi Soloveitchiks teachings Year by Year, translated by Aaron Pinchik 
(Jerusalem: Heikhal Shlomo), 1968. 


a common version had finally emerged, payy'tanim 5 continued to elaborate 
on the basic texts. Over time they created thousands of piyyutim that were 
recited in between the body of statutory prayer known as Matbei a. 6 Many 
of these piyyutim were rediscovered only in recent generations, with close 
examination of the Ben Ezra Synagogue s Genizah — the hidden resting place 
for holy books — in Cairo. 7 The downfall of Communism a century later has 
also revealed the existence of caches of piyyutim that were hidden behind 
the former Iron Curtain throughout Eastern Europe. 

Two-Hundred R'shuyot— Few of Them Found in the Traditional 

Rshuyot form a special category of piyyut. They appear before liturgical 
sections such as Shaharit, Musaf, Torah and Haftarah— on High Holidays, 
Festivals and special Sabbaths — as well as celebratory occasions like a 
bridegrooms Aliyah to the Torah on the Sabbath preceding the wedding. In 
addition, special Rshuyot were composed on behalf of the sh'lihei tsibbur 
themselves. Most of Rshuyot today belong more in the province of research 
than that of public prayer. 

Every community had its own minhag (custom), and rarely was a minhag 
shared by all communities. One exception, found in Ashkenazic as well as 
Sephardic siddurim, is an early-morning R shut by Solomon Ibn Gabirol 
(Spain, C.1022-C.1069). 8 

Shahar a-vakesh'kha tsuri u-misgabi At the dawn I seek thee, Rock and 

refuge tried, 

E'erokh I'-fanekha shahri v'gam arbi In due service speak Thee morn and 


Li-f'nei g'dulat'kha e'-emod Ve-baheil 'Neath Thy greatness shrinking, 

stand I sore afraid, 

5 From the Greekpoietes ("poet"), cantor/poets who composed both words and 
music of acrostical prayers known as piyyutim (singular: piyyut), from the 6 th century 

6 (The common "coin" of blessings minted by our sages), tractate B'rakhot in 
both Talmudim— JT, 9: 2; BT, 40a. 

7 In the 1890s, by Solomon Schechter, then a reader in Rabbinics at Cambridge 
University, later Chancellor of the newly reorganized Jewish Theological Seminary in 
New York. 

8 Translation by Israel Zangwill, Selected Religious Poems of Solomon Gabirol 
(Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society), 1923: 2. 


Ki einkha tireh kol mahsh'vot libi All my secret thinking bare before 

Thee laid. 

Mah zeh asher yukhal ha-leiv Vha-lashon Little to thy glory heart or tongue 

can do; 

La'asot u-vnah ko'ah ruhi b'-tokh kirbi Small remains the story, add we 

spirit too. 

Hineh Vkha ti-tav zimrat enosh, al kein yet since man's praise ringing may 

seem good to Thee, 

Odakh b'-od tih'yeh nishmat elo'ah bi I will praise Thee singing while Thy 

breath's in me. 
Ibn GabiroFs piyyut appears right after Mah Tovu (How goodly are your 
tents, O Jacob; Numbers 24: 5, said upon entering a synagogue), as a warrant 
to offer the days roster of prayers. The Nobel Prize-winning Israeli author 
Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1888-1970) writes about the influence this poem had 
upon him as a child. 

When I was but an infant my father of blessed memory would bring me 
a new Siddur every year, from the market. In one of those siddurim I 
found a R shut by Rav Shlomo ibn Gabirol, I read it, and was astonished: 
is it possible that a man so righteous that his name appears in a siddur 
cannot find God every minute of every hour — that he must look for God 
every morning — and when he finds Him is so frightened that he stands 
afraid and shrinking?. . . For a long time the image of this tzaddik remained 
before my eyes. 9 

Baal Tefillah, 10 an indispensable sourcebook for hazzanut by Abraham Baer 
(1834-1894), opens with this Rshut as the preamble to Weekday Shaharit, 
even before Adon Olam and Yigdal, the standard preliminary hymns. 11 Baer 
gives a "Portuguese" melody arranged for hazzan and two-part choir, whereas 
Gershon Ephros (1890-1978) presents a setting of Shahar A-Vakesh'kha for 
cantor, choir and organ by Isadore Freed in his Cantorial Anthology P 

Freed (1900-1960), a composer/organist, was born in Brisk, Lithuania and 
came to the United States as a young child. He taught Music Theory at Hebrew 
Union College, set numerous prayers and Psalms, wrote a book, Harmoniz- 
ing the Jewish Modes, and composed several Sabbath services including a 

9 Kol Sippurei Sh. Y. Agnon, "Ha-Eish V'ha-Eitsim, page 292. 

10 Gotheburg, Sweden, self-published, 1877, no. 1. 

11 "Eternal God" and "O Praise the Living God," texts by Solomon ibn Gabirol 
(12 th century), and Daniel ben Judah (14 th century), respectively.. 

12 Volume 3, Sholosh R'golim (New York: Bloch Publishing Co.), 1948: 94. 


Hasidic one. His contemporary, Max Wohlberg (1907-1996) who chaired the 
Nusach (Traditional "manner" of chant) department at the Jewish Theological 
Seminary, also set Shahar A-Vakesh'kha to music, and used the title for his 
congregationally oriented Weekday Morning Service. 13 

Kabbalistic Influences 

Anonymously written Rshuyot for Shaharit, Minhah and Ma ariv appear in 
slightly differing versions in various siddurim. 

Hareini ba V-hitpalleil t'fillat Minhah k'rno she-tikein Yitzhak avinu... 

I have come to offer the prayer of Minhah as established by our patriarch 

I have heard the same Rshut wording used to introduce Weekday Maariv by 
Hazzan Avraham David Fuchs of the Ohab Zedek Synagogue in Belle Har- 
bor, New York. Abraham Adler, formerly cantor of the Seitenstettentempel 
in Vienna, explained that a R shut was said before Ma ariv in his synagogue 
only on the 7 th of Adar, the traditional date for the birth and death of Moses. 
In Vienna it was called Yom ha-Hevra Kaddisha ("Burial-Society Day"). 

R shuyot that precede the early-morning P'sukei D'-Zirnra piyyut, Nishmat 
KolHai f-Vareikh ("The souls of all flesh praise You") form a special category 
over seventy strong. One of them— Eil Ehad B'ra'ani ("The One God Created 
Me") — by Abraham Ibn Ezra (Spain, 1089-Italy, 1164), is best known and has 
been incorporated by Ashkenazic practice into the body of Z'mirot (table- 
songs) sung informally apart from worship on Shabbat. Its connection to 
Nishmat becomes apparent in the final strophe. 

E'ekod al appi V-efros Vkha kappai ad eftahpi b' -Nishmat Kol Hai 

I bow and stretch forth my hands before giving voice to the Nishmat 

Ibn Ezras Rshut was set to music by Rabbi Meir Shapira (1887-1934), 
founder of the seminary, Yeshivat Hakhmei Lublin, in Poland (1924). Israeli 
Knesset member Benjamin Mintz wrote of him in his book, Meir b'-Ahavah 
(1943). Rav Shapiras custom was to recite Abraham Ibn Ezras poem Libi u- 
V'sari Y'-Ran'nu elEUHai ("My body and soul sing to the Living God") every 
Sabbath, silently. Only the final strophe would he sing aloud. 

Ozlat yadeinu V-tash koheinu, u-vatkol t'-nahameinu, od Avinu hai 

Despite our helplessness, we are consoled by knowing that our Heavenly 
Father lives! 

13 New York: Transcontinental Music Publications, 1974. 


Benjamin Mintz relates that on the Sabbath before he died, "Rabbi Shapira 
remained silent when it came time to sing this final strophe ." 

An Ancient Chant That Goes Straight to the Heart 

Mi-Sod hakhamim u-nvonim umi-lemed da'at u-mvinim eft'hah pi bi- 

With words of learning from the wise... I open my lips in prayer... " 

This brief anonymously written Rshut appears before the ICrovah — a multi- 
sectioned piyyut whose various parts appear in the opening three blessings of 
the Amidah repetitions on High Holidays, Pilgrimage Festivals, and Special 
Sabbaths preceding Purim and Passover. Its words hint at the rationale for 
R shuyot in general. Before the era of printed prayer books the sh'li'ah tsibbur 
bore the responsibility of reciting piyyutim— beloved by the people— from 
memory. To justify this interruption of the mandatory blessings he sought 
to obtain prior forgiveness from the group that had delegated him to recite 
piyyutim— the congregation. He would suit the words of Mi-Sod to the li- 
turgical occasion: 

Rosh HaShanah 

... V-halot uV-hanein p'nei Melekh Malkhei ha-mlakhim va-Adonei ha- 

... to plead before the Sovereign of sovereigns and the God of all gods. 

Yom Kippur 

... V-halot uV-hanein p'nei Melekh mokheil V-soleiah la-avonim 

... to plead before the Sovereign Who forgives iniquity. 
Festivals and Special Sabbaths 

... le-ho dot uV-hallel p'nei shokhein m'romim 

... to thank and praise the One Who dwells on high. 

Israels second Prime Minister, Moshe Sharett (1894-1965), an inveterate 
coiner of new Hebrew phrases, loved to borrow the piyyut s word lemed 
("learning") to announce a Yom lyyun ("Day of Learning"). He also found novel 
private uses for the word. In a letter to his children he wrote: "When I arrived 
here I found much learning {lemed) among those who taught piano." 14 

This modest R shut must have appeared inadequate to the task of setting the 
stage for Amidah repetitions on holy days, for payy'tanim soon added their 
own R shuyot to iCrovot that they or others had composed. Thus on Shaha- 
rit of Rosh HaShanah we have Yekutiel ben Moshe (11 th century, Germany) 
appending a Rshut onto EFazar Kallirs K rovah— AtHil Yom P'kudah ("The 

14 Ha-Hinukh ha-Musikali, vol. 9, Elul 1966. 


Day of Judgement Has Come")— written three centuries earlier. YekutieFs 
R shut begins in classical style. 

Yareiti bi-ftsoti si ah I'-hash'hil... 

Humbly I pour forth my supplication... 

The first letters of each line spell out the author s name, Yekutiel b'-Rav Moshe, 
plus the blessing Hazak ve-Emats ("May you live and be strong"). The sh'li'ah 
tsibbur pleads 

Yotsri, ha-vineini morashah I'-hanhil—aileini v-amtseini mei-rifyon v'-hil 

My Creator, show me how to transmit my sacred heritage — Strengthen 
and support me in my weakness and fear... 

and builds to a climax in the final strophe 

Tsdakah a-kaveh mim-kha V-ohil—yosher horai zokhrah l-'ha'ahil 

Ham libi b'-hagigi yag'hil — yistakr b'-kirbi b'-eit at'hil 

I hope and trust that in Your mercy, You will recall the merit of our 

My heart is stirred as I offer my prayer, my soul is on fire as I begin. 

Daniel Goldschmidt s mahzor 15 includes three more R shuyot for the first 
day of Rosh HaShanah.The standard R shut for the second day of Rosh Ha- 
Shanah is by Shimon ben Yitzhak ben Abun (11 th century, Germany). 

Atiti V-hannakh b'-leiv karua u-murtah 

With troubled and anxious heart, I have come to implore You... 
Later the sh'li'ah tsibbur cries out: 

Yagati v'-anhati eikh la-amod V-fanekha 

ki ein ma'asim V-zakot b'-einekha 

L'-halot'kha sWlahuni mak'halot hamonekha 

"Weary and wondering how I might stand before You— 
For without good deeds I deserve not to be in Your sight; 
Yet Your people have sent me to entreat You— 
Prepare their hearts and heed their prayers. 

On Shaharit of Yom Kippur, Minhag Ashkenaz adds to MiSod Hakhamim 
a Rshut composed by Meshullam ben Kalonymos (10 th century, Italy). 
Eimekha nasatihin b'-orkhi, b'-maVakhut arnkha bar eikh b'-vorkhi 

I bear the awe of standing in Your presence, as I bow to offer Your people s 

15 Mahzor la-Yamim ha-Nora'im — V-Fi Minhagei B'nei Ashkenaz V-Khol Anfei- 
hem (Jerusalem: Koren), 1970. 


Along with the other R shuyot mentioned above, it is chanted to an ancient 
melodic pattern that goes right to the heart of its hearers. So ingrained has 
the chant become that worshipers sing along with it in an undertone (Italian: 
sotto voce), and this despite the halakhic (legal) prohibition against joining in 
the hazzans personal plea for Divine help in fulfilling the task to which the 
congregation has appointed him. 

The custom among Middle eastern communities (Eidot ha-Mizrah) is for 
the sh'li'ah tsibbur to recite three Rshuyot before commencing repetition of 
either the Shaharit or Musaf Amidah on holy days or special Sabbaths. Recent 
Chief Rabbis of Israel — Ovadiah Yosef and Mordekhai Eliyahu — have ruled on 
the question of whether or not it is permissible to pause between the Silent 
and Repeated Amidah in order for the aforementioned three R shuyot to be 
recited. Rav Yosef 16 writes: 

In places where they were accustomed to recite the piyyut Adonai, shamati 
shim'akha, yareiti ("I have heard of Your reknown, O God, and am awed"; 
Habakkuk 3: 2) between the Silent and Repeated Amidah of Shaharit or 
Musaf on the Yamim Noraim (the "Days of Awe"), there is a precedent on 
which to rely, and it is forbidden to annul their custom, for their custom 
is based on pillars of gold (adneipaz), and let us leave Israelites to their 
well established customs, for if they be not prophets they are at least the 
descendants of prophets. 

In his lengthy responsum Rav Yosef further observes that in Jerusalem it is 
customary to say these piyyutim. In fact, this writer has found a recording of 
the three Rshut-type piyyutim— Adonai Sham'ati Shim'akha, Atanu I'-Halot 
Panekha, and Ohilah la'Eil— sung in the nusah of Jerusalem Sephardim by 
Hazzan Dr. Ezra Barnea. I have also obtained a recording of these Rshuyot 
sung by Moroccan-born hazzanim in the nusah of their native land. 

The High Holiday mahzor Alfei Menasheh, edited by Rav Mordekhai Eli- 
yahu, comments on the R shut, Adonai Sham'ati Shim'akha: 

Some do recite this piyyut, in order to arouse a feeling of repentance 
(tshuvah) within the congregation. Others, more strict about such matters, 
do not say it because of the rule that the Amidah repetition should follow 
the Silent Amidah immediately with no interruption of any kind. 

The chants for these R shuyot are very old; simply from listening to them, 
one can easily be reduced to tears. The texts for Shaharit vary slightly from 
the ones for Musaf, as do the ones for Rosh HaShanah from the ones for 
Yom Kippur. The order in which they're recited also differs among Sephardic 
communities; some insert into Minhah of Yom Kippur a fourth R shut: Atanu 
l'-halot panekha ki hesed ve'emety'-kadmufanekha ("We come to plead before 

16 Y'-Havveh Da'at, vol. 5, no. 42. 


You, for mercy and truth precede You"). In his liner notes to the recording of 
Jerusalem Sephardic R shuyot, Mr. Barnea explains: 

So long as the possibility exists to pray in the various modes (makamat) 
on Sabbaths and Festivals in order to infuse "color" into the service, we 
must treat the melodic motifs of Yamim Nora'im as mandatory and not 
try to change them. High Holiday song in Sephardic communities excels 
in its authenticity and its lyrical beauty. 

Hin'ni He- Ani MiMa'as—A Wealth of Customs 

One of the best known Rshuyot in Ashkenazic practice is the one that precedes 
Musaf (the Late Morning or "Additional" service) on Yamim Noraim, 

Hinni he-'ani mi-ma'as, nir'ash v'nifhad mi-pahad Yosheiv t'hillot 

Here am I, poor in deeds, trembling before God Who is enthroned on 
the praises of Israel. 17 

The Hin'ni prayer first appeared in an Ashkenazic mahzor some 400 years 
ago. Of unknown authorship, it is recited in most Ashkenazic congregations, 
though not in all. There are also slight variations in the versions given by dif- 
ferent mahzorim. Some have 

... ani holeikh v'-omeid V-vakeish rahamim alai V-alshoVhai... 

... as I rise to request pity for myself and for those who have sent me... 

Other mahzorim have 

... ani holeikh la-amod u-V-vakeish rahamim alai v'-alshol'hai... 

... as I prepare to stand to request pity for myself and for those who have 
sent me... 

Most mahzorim have 

... she-kol ha-maVakhim she-heim po'alei tefillot yaviu tefillati lifnei lisei 


. . . may all the divine angels who bring prayers carry mine to Your glorious 

And still others have variants of po'alei tefillot: ma'alei or ba'alei) conveying 
the same thought, but variants nonetheless. In a few communities the Hin'ni 
prayer is also recited by the Ba'al Shaharit (sh'li'ah tsibbur for the Morning 
service) before HaMelekh (the Sovereign). 

Strangely, the Hin'ni prayer hardly merits mention by halakhic authorities. 
This is perhaps explainable when we consider rabbinic disparagement of all 
special pleas that were recited by hazzanim over the centuries. Rabbi Jacob 
Emden (1698-1776) decreed: "Cantors who direct requests toward angels 

17 Translation from Seder Avodah, ed. Seymour Rosenbloom (Elkins Park, PA: 
Congregation Adath Jeshurun), 2004: 325. 


should be rebuked and prevented from doing so" The Hin'ni prayer specifi- 
cally mentions "angels who bring prayers" yet Rabbi Emdens own Siddur 
includes it— for the hazzan— with the proviso that it be said silently and with 
utmost kavvanah [intensity], from the depths of ones heart, with many tears 
and with powerful fervor; let the hazzan raise his voice only when it is ap- 
propriate to bestir the people who are waiting for him to finish— let him not 
overly prolong his prayer. 

In the section "Laws of Yamim Nora im and Sukkot" in his book Matei 
Efrayim, Rabbi Ephraim Margolies (1760-1828) of Brody in Galitzia, Upper 
Austria, rules that 

It is improper for a sh'li'ah tsibbur to implore angels that his voice be 
rendered sweet and pleasant, etc. He may only plead in accepted liturgical 
language for such prayers — "May it be Your will — with no mention of 
heavenly creatures. And several prayers for that purpose have already 
been proscribed (no. 620). 

Elsewhere he writes: "It is our custom just before the Hatsi-Kaddish of 
Musaf for the sh'li'ah tsibbur to silently recite a corrected version of the Hin'ni 
prayer. And the author of Mateh Efrayim stipulates: "It is forbidden to pro- 
long this prayer because of the rule concerning tirha de-tsibbura (Aramaic: 
"burdening the congregation") and thereby causing an undue interruption 
between Ashrei (Psalm 145) and the Amidah. 

In Hin'ni the hazzan begs that the Holy One accept his prayer 

ki-t'filat zakein V-ragil like the prayers of an experienced leader 

u-firko naeh whose lifetime has been well spent, 

u-z'kano vngudal whose beard is fully grown, 

v'-kolo na'im whose voice is sweet, 

u-murav b'-da?at im ha-bnyot and who is genial with other people. 18 
The phrase "whose beard is fully grown" might indicate that already at 
the time of this prayer s formulation there were hazzanim who did not grow 
beards. That surmise encouraged speculation that Hin'ni was written by a 
hazzan. The prayer s conclusion omits Gods name in its quasi-blessing, 

Barukh Atah, Shomei Tefillah 
Blessed are You, the Hearer of Prayer. 

It is important to note that Hin'ni intrinsically demands to be offered quietly 
as the hazzans private plea. From the rabbinic reactions we have cited it is 
evident that hazzanim have habitually treated it otherwise, more like they 
would treat the text 

18 Translation from The Complete ArtScroll Machzor, Nosson Ascherman & 
Meir Zlotowitz, eds. (Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications), 1985: 445. 


Az b'-kol ra'ash gadol, adir V-hazak ... 

Then with a sound of great noise, mighty and powerful... 19 

Realistically, however, the congregation has waited all morning for the cantor 
to "deliver" Hin'ni, on which his overall approval rating will rest. This results 
in some hazzanim singing the entire prayer fortissimo, and others singing only 
part of it that way while reciting the personal confession ki hotei u-foshei'a 
ani ("for I am indeed a sinner and transgressor") sotto voce. 

Theatrical Effects 

There have been cantors who converted Hin'ni into a spectacle; worship- 
ers may not have applauded, but they accepted the theatrics with glee. One 
apocryphal story goes like this. 

A cantor waited at the Sanctuary entrance as the choir intoned: "Khazn, 
where ^reyou?" The cantor replied: "Hin'ni" as he entered the Sanctuary 
and strode to the Bimah (elevated central Reading platform). The choir 
then chanted: "And what are you?" — to which the cantor responded 
tearfully, a he- ( ani mi-ma'asf— and continued with the prayer. 

The story may or may not have its roots in actual fact, but I have witnessed 
cantors beginning Hin'ni by the Holy Ark and, upon reaching the words holeikh 
v'-omeid ("rise and go"), walking slowly and deliberately to the Bimah while 
singing. To be sure, these choreographed moves were viewed by many (includ- 
ing this writer) as being more appropriate to a playhouse than to a synagogue. 
Among those who protested was the celebrated hazzan of Riga, Borukh Leib 
Rosowsky (1841-1919), who always recited Hin'ni in an undertone. When 
asked why, he said: "This is a personal prayer between me and my Creator 
and it is not the congregation s business to know what I have requested from 
the Master of the Universe." As for those hazzanim who produce thunder and 
lightning at the words v'-tig'ar ba-Satan I'-val yastineini ("denounce Satan 
that he not impede me"), Rosowsky explained that he conquered Satan with 
silence rather than with screaming. 

Yitzhak Y'didyah Frankel, the late Chief Rabbi of Tel- Aviv, told me that 
Gershon Sirota, the Chief Cantor of Warsaw s Tlomacke Synagogue early in 
the 20 th century, used to increase the volume of his huge voice at the words 
Shaddai, ayom v'-nora ("Frightening and Awesome One!"). It seems that 
on Yom Kippur even assimilated members of this aristocratic congrega- 
tion used to show up (having instructed their chauffeurs to drop them off 
a block away). Not familiar with Hebrew, when they heard Sirota shout out 
the word Shaddai (meaning "God Almighty!" in Hebrew, but "sit!" in Polish) 

19 From the K'dushah ("Sanctification") of Shaharit. 


they would reflexively crouch down in their seats, thinking they had done 
something wrong. 

Cantor Samuel Vigoda (1892-1990) once signed a contract to officiate 
during Yamim Nora im with the Kehillath Jeshurun Congregation in New 
York. The contract contained the following clause: "The Cantor shall recite 
the Hin'ni prayer silently." It had been put in at the insistence of the rabbi, 
Joseph Lookstein, and Vigoda agreed to abide by it. On the first day of Rosh 
HaShanah no one had anticipated that the Hin'ni would be muted, and by the 
time people realized what had happened it was too late for them to protest, 
for they would have interrupted the cantor s majestic Hatsi-Kaddish, already 
begun. By the second day, long before the Hin'ni, worshipers' voices could 
be heard loudly demanding that the hazzan be allowed to sing it audibly, and 
the rabbi was forced to acquiesce. 

Cantorial anthologies contain many settings for the passages of Hin'ni that 
are customarily sung aloud. Yet, in Leib Glantz s High Holiday collection 
only the first verse is set to music. Rabbi Dr. Yitzhak Alfasi informs me that 
in certain Hasidic circles — particularly that of Ger — the Hin'ni is always said 
quietly. Hazzan Glantz, of course, was raised in a Hasidic home; his father, 
grandfather and great-grandfather having served as ba'alei t'fillah in the beis 
medresh (study hall) of the Talner Hasidim in the Ukraine. 

In 1985, together with Rabbi Dr. Abraham Joseph Malinsky I visited Cantor 
Joseph Lefkifer who had been hazzan in Liege, Belgium for 52 years. Lefkifer 
was Leib Glantz s cousin, and like him had studied with Hazzan Abraham 
Kalechnik (1837-1917) in Kishinev, Bessarabia. I asked Hazzan Lefkifer if he'd 
be good enough to sing a few prayers for us in his teacher s style, and he willingly 
agreed. But when I requested that he sing Hin'ni, Lefkifer demurred. Tm only 
inspired to sing Hin'ni when I stand before the Ark; and the Hin'ni that I sing 
the first day of Rosh HaShanah is not like the Hin'ni that I sing on the second 
day, and neither of those is like the Hin'ni that I sing on Yom Kippur." 

Hin'ni migrated from the synagogue to the Yiddish theater. Anshel Schorr, 
director of the Yiddish theater in Philadelphia, composed a song titled Dos 
Yiddishe Lied ("Song of the Jew"), set to music by Sholom Secunda. 20 It tells 
of the tribulations— and satisfactions— that a Jew experiences during the 
course of a year, at the center of which stands the Hin'ni prayer. There is 
hardly a Traditional cantor whose repertoire does not include this song. It is 
featured in the film, Der Vilner Shtodt Khazn ("The City Cantor of Vilna"), 
screenplay by Osip Dimov after Mark Orenstein s book Der Vilner Balebessl, 

20 Published by Henry Lefkowitch (New York: Metro Music), 1928. 


starring Moishe Oysher and based on the tragic life of Yoel Dovid Strashun- 
sky (1816-1850). Its ironic that Oyshers marvelous rendition of Hin'ni today 
provokes giggles when his fiery declamation, v'-sig'ar ba-Soton l'-valyastineini 
("denounce Satan that he not impede me") is answered by the choir s lusty 
response: yastineini ("let him impede me!"). 

Rabbi Efrayim Gutman, leader of the Roumanian community in Tel- Aviv, 
relates that a hazzan in Bucharest would habitually trumpet the phrase ki 
hotei u-foshei'a ani ("I am indeed a sinner and transgressor!") — an admission 
which his choir readily affirmed: Ernes, Ernes, Ernes ("True indeed!"). How 
puzzling that specifically on Yamim Nora im when people truly feel a sense 
of contrition, the service is turned into a circus... 

Each Hazzan Leaves His Own Stamp 

I've listened to fifteen recordings of the prayer Hin'ni He'Ani Mi-Ma'as from 
the mouths of Yossele Rosenblatt, Zavel Kwartin, Tzvi Aroni, David Bagley, 
Sholom Katz, Samuel Malavsky, Moishe Oysher, Moshe Ganchoff, Abraham 
Adler, Meir Hofshteter, Abraham Raanani (to a setting by Gershon Shapo- 
zhnik), Asher Heinovitz, Ben-Tziyon Miller, Pierre Pinchik and Ephraim 
Goldstein. All of them were pure gold — each hazzan left his personal stamp 
on this prayer — and its fascinating to compare their individual manners of 
reciting it. For many years I heard Hin'ni as it was sung in synagogue by Haz- 
zan Benjamin Unger, with fear and trembling. Until v'aly'hi shum mikhshol 
bit'fillati ("may my prayer encounter no obstacle") he would sing out loud, 
and from there onwards he would sing sotto voce. Benjamin Muller of the 
Shomeir HaDat Synagogue in Antwerp did likewise, as I've been privileged 
to observe these past few years. The Hin'ni that he sings was passed on to 
him by his teacher David Treiter, z"L 

The Hin'ni prayer served as a hazzan s calling card as he began his mission. 
In it he publicly acknowledged the weight of delegated responsibility that he 
carried. I remember Professor Yaakov Frankel quoting this text when he was 
appointed Director of the Israel Bank, to signify the enormous burden he was 
assuming along with the office. Israels eighth President, Moshe Katsav, read 
from the same prayer during his swearing-in ceremony. 

It's noteworthy that the American Conservative and Reform movements 
have retained the Hin'ni prayer in its entirety. The Conservative Mahzorfor 
the High Holidays 21 positions it after the Silent Amidah for Musaf, rather 

21 Jules Harlow, ed. (New York: The Rabbinical Assembly), 1972: 236; 532. 


than beforehand. The Reform mahzor 22 opens the Evening service for Rosh 
HaShanah with it. 

Various other mahzorim follow Hin'ni with four verses from Psalms, whose 
first letters spell out the Hebrew Tetragrammaton (Y-H-V-H). The hazzan s 
recitation of these verses before he begins his prayer on Rosh HaShanah 
and Yom Kippur is said to have originated with the commentator Rashi s 
grandson, Rabbeinu Tarn, who lived in 12 th -century France. I also learned 
from Rabbi Yosef Gorlitsky, the late Lubavitcher Rebbe s emissary to Tel- Aviv 
and spiritual leader of Ge ulat Yisrael Synagogue, that in HaBaD practice the 
Hin'ni is recited silently, whereas the four Psalm verses that follow it are said 
aloud and with heart-rending fervor by the hazzan, after which he chants the 
Hatsi-Kaddish of Musaf. 

Yet another Rshut for the sh'li'ah tsibbur to recite before Musaf on Yamim 
Nora im — Eil Melekh Ne'eman — is found in some Ashkenazi mahzorim. Of 
unknown authorship, it revolves around the verse she-lo yeivoshu shol'hai hi, 
v'-lo ani vahem ("let those who've delegated me not be shamed by me, nor I 
by them"). It continues with 

May it be Your will, Awe-inspiring One, that my voice be pleasant this 
day, that it not falter, that it remain strong, as is written: "the sound of the 
shofar intensified the longer it sounded"; Amen. 

Abraham Baer s Baal T'fillah includes a setting for this text, although most 
hazzanim recite the Eil Melekh Ne'ernan silently, if at all. The only recording 
of it that IVe come across is by Hazzan Samuel Malavsky (1894-1985), who 
declaims it right after Hin'ni with no cantorial embellishments whatsoever. 
Many communities in pre-War Eastern Europe used to feature Eil Melekh 
Ne'ernan as a R shut prior to the prayers Tal and Geshem on the first day of 
Pesah and the eighth day of Sukkot (Shmini Atseret). Rabbi Ephraim Gutman 
of the Choral Temple in Bucharest informed me that this was the habitual 
custom of Hazzan Ephraim Roubinsky. 

Western European communities have a traditional R shut that begins with 
Atah Hor'eita ("You have been shown"), just before HaMelekh of Shaharit on 
Yamim Noraim, and also before the Amidah of Musaf. Hin'ni was apparently 
not said in Western Europe, which points to its later origin. In his book, 
Minhagim de-Kehillah K'doshah Vermaiza I'-fi Rabi Yuzpah Shamash, z"l 
("Traditions of the Holy Congregation of Worms According to Rabbi Yuzpah 
Shamash, of Blessed Memory"), 23 Rabbi Binyamin Shlomo Hamburger states 

22 Gates of Repentance {Sha'arei Tshuvah), ed. Chaim Stern (New York: Central 
Conference of American Rabbis), 1978: 18. 

23 Jerusalem: Mif al Torah Hakhmei Ashkenaz, 1988. 


that the R'shut Atah Hor'eita was not known in that Rhineland town. Perhaps 
these were verses printed for the sh'li'ah tsibbur to recite after the "Great" 
Aleinu (Adoration) prayer of the Musaf Amidah repetition, in mahzorim that 
followed the ruling of the Rokeiah. 24 

Two more R shuyot for the sh'li'ah tsibbur appear in the Musaf Amidah repeti- 
tion for Yamim Nora im. They are: Heyeilm Pifiyot Sh'luheiAmkha ("Inspire the 
Lips of Those Sent by Your People"); and Ohilah La-Eil ("I Plead before God"). 
They function as introits to piyyutim that used to be recited in the Malkhuyot 
("Sovereignty"), Zikhronot ("Remembrance") and Shofarot ("Revelation") sec- 
tions on Rosh HaShanah, and the Avodah (Re-enactment of the Temple s Day of 
Atonement Ritual) service on Yom Kippur. We should note that Ohilah La'Eil 
appears eslsewhere in the Sephardic rite: before the repetition of the Musaf 
Amidah, in place of the Ashkenazic rites Hin'nU and not during the Amidah 
repetition. Today, although the piyyutim formerly recited during Malkhuyot, 
Zikhronot and Shofarot no longer appear in most mahzorim and are skipped 
by most congregations using mahzorim in which they do appear, at least one 
of the R shuyot, Ohilah La-Eil, designed to precede them is still recited. Why 
so? It has to do with the nusah to which Ohilah La-Eil is chanted, ancient and 
highly cherished by so many communities that a cantor would do well not to 
deviate in the slightest detail from the accepted melody. 

Heyei Im Pifiyot 

This lengthy R'shut is based on the Mishnaic statement, 

If he that says the t'fillah falls into error it is a bad omen for him; and 
if he was appointed by the congregation it is a bad omen for those 
who appointed him, because a mans agent is like unto himself. 25 

In Sephardic practice Heyei Im Pifiyot serves as an introit to the Avodah ser- 
vice on Yom Kippur. In some mahzorim it fulfills the same function before 
the Slihot section on Yom Kippur eve and Shaharit of Yom Kippur day. It 
pleads on behalf of all sh'lihei tsibbur: 

Our God and God of our forebears, inspire the lips of those who 
have been sent by the House of Israel to offer their fervent prayer 
before You. Teach them what to say ... and let them not err in their 
language nor falter in their speech. May they never utter anything 

24 Rabbi Eliezer of Mayence (1160-1237); his book, Rokeiah, contains most of 
the laws practiced in everyday life. 

25 B'rakhot 5.5. 


that is against Your will, so that the people they represent be not 
humiliated through them. 

There are certain minor discrepancies between the Sephardic and Ashkenazic 
versions oiHeyei Im Pifiyot and Ohilah La'Eil. Authorship of both R shuyot is 
unknown, although some attribute Ohilah to the earliest Palestinian payy'tan, 
Yose ben Yose. 26 

The cantorial world is familiar with a setting for Ohilah La-Eil by the Je- 
rusalem hazzan, Zalman Rivlin (1886-1962) because it has been carried far 
and wide by his many students who now serve in pulpits everywhere. Rivlins 
setting has been recorded by Cantor Aryeh Braun. The best- known setting for 
this text is by the composer Zavel Zilberts (1881-1949). It is quite long — tak- 
ing up to twenty minutes in performance— and therefore usually done at 
concerts rather than during actual worship. The piece was performed— in 
part — during a 1957 concert at New York's Madison Square Garden marking 
the 60 th anniversary of the Khazonim Farband (Jewish Ministers Cantors As- 
sociation). Soloists were Abraham Dubow, Eliezer Zaslavsky, Samuel Taube, 
Benjamin Alpert, Asher Balaban, Felix Fogelman and Nathan Chaitovsky. 
They were accompanied by a choir of 250 hazzanim led by Oscar Julius, and 
an orchestra conducted by Warner Bass. 

In 1999, Zilberts Heyeilm Pifiyot was performed during a concert for Yuval 
subscribers at Heichal Hatarbut (The Mann Auditorium) in Tel- Aviv. Solo- 
ists were Benjamin Muller, Ben-Tziyon Miller, Moshe Schulhof and David 
Weinbach. An orchestra and chorus under the baton of Dr. Mordechai Sobol 
accompanied. Another setting oiHeyei Im Pifiyot — by Meir Weisblum — was 
recorded by the late Hazzan David Bagley, who also sang it at concert ap- 
pearances. I've heard Benjamin Muller perform a version of this Rshut by 
Shlomo Mandel. It was never notated; Muller learned it from Mandel when 
the latter once visited his home during the time they both served as hazzanim 
in Johannesburg. 

A unique Rshut found in various mahzorim— whose origin I have not 
been able to discover nor do I know of communities that still recite it — is the 
one before An'im ZemiroU the Hymn of Glory by Rabbi Judah the Pious (12 th 
century, Germany). Mahzorim that include it give the instruction: "When 
the Ark is opened for An'im Zemirot this is recited." The Rshut opens with 
the words 

26 Some date him as early as the 5 th century; others place him along with Yannai 
in the 7 th century. 


Avinu Malkeinu, open the gates of Heaven to our prayers: gates of mercy; 
gates of prayer; gates of pleading; gates of acceptance; gates of favor; gates 
of healing... 

and it closes with a request that the prayer be accepted 

by virtue of our holy patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, 
David and Solomon, Elijah and Elishah, and by virtue of our righteous 
matriarchs Sarah, Rebeccah, Rachel, Leah, Bilhah, Zilpah, Hannah and 
Avigayil, and by virtue of Mordekhai and Esther in the City of Shushan. 

Of particular interest are the "righteous matriarchs" that include Bilhah, 
Zilpah, Hannah and Avigayil — as well as the conclusion — in which Mordekhai 
and Esther are mentioned. This wording is not found in any of the piyyutim 
in Israel Davidsons Otsar ha-Piyyut veha-Shirah B'Yisrael {Thesaurus of 
Medieval Hebrew Poetry, 1929), nor have I come across a melody for it in any 
of the cantor ial anthologies. 

Another fascinating piyyut is Yah Eili V'-Go'ali ("God, my Lord and Re- 
deemer"), by an unknown author. Its provenance is from the 17 th century and 
it is sung in the Eastern European rite for Festival days, after the Torah and 
Haftarah are read. It acts as a quasi-Rshut for Ashrei (Psalms 145). 

Yah, Eili v'-Goa'ali God, my Lord and Redeemer— 

Et-yatsvah li-kratekha. I present myself before You. 

Hay ah v'-yihyeh, hay ah v'-hoveh. The Ever-living One. 

Kolgoi admatekha All who dwell on earth 

V'-todah v'la-olah. . . kol korbanekha. Shall bring You diverse offerings . . . 
Z'khor niVah Remember the weary people 

Asher nasah Who have suffered so — 

V'hashivah V-admatekha. And return them to Your Land. 

Selah a-haVleka They will ever praise You, saying; 

B'-Ashrei yosh'vei veitekha. Blessed are they who dwell in Your 

House. 27 
Several Kabbalistic principals are woven into the text, such as Dak al dak, 
ad ein nivdak ("[God] is so subtle that He cannot be perceived"). Yah Eili is 
recited on Festival days when there is no Yizkor service. It has taken root in 
Israel as well, even in yeshivot that recite a minimal number of piyyutim. 
Hazzan Yossele Rosenblatt (1882-1933) set it to operatic-sounding music 
that IVe heard Hazzan Eliyahu Greenblatt sing. Hazzan Aaron Daniel Miller 
recorded the piyyut to a Hasidic tune, and I can never forget Leib Glantzs 
treatment of Yah Eili in the Tif eret Tzvi Synagogue of Tel- Aviv. As was his 

27 Translation from Service of the Synagogue— Pentecost, ed. Yaakov Davis & 
Mordekhai Adler, after Wolf Heidenheim, 1840 (New York: Hebrew Publishing Com- 
pany), 1930: 114c. 


custom, Glantz tailored his chant to fit the texts meaning, with special em- 
phasis on et-yatsvah li-kratekha ("I present myself before You"). 

A melody for part of Yah Eili—z'khor nil'ah ("Remember the weary peo- 
pled—appears in Abraham Baers Baal Tefillah. 28 This melody was arranged 
for cantor and choir by Shlomo Ravitz for the opening strophe of Yah Eili in 
his anthology, Kol Yisrael. 29 Leib Glantz s Yah Eili melody was notated for the 
Jubilee Cantorial Volume published by Yeshiva University. 30 

A Hint of Yamim Nora'im in the Prayers Tal and Geshem 
The Musaf service for Shmini Atseret features the Prayer for Rain (Tfillat 
Geshem) and the Musaf service for the first day of Pesah features the Prayer 
for Dew (T'fillat Tal). Over both of these elaborate piyyutim there hovers an 
atmosphere strikingly reminiscent of the High Holidays. The hazzan dons 
a white kitl (shroud-like robe), and certain key motifs of the Hatsi-Kaddish 
before Musaf are identical to motifs heard in the Hatsi-Kaddish before the 
Slihot and Musaf services of Yamim Noraim. In several Western European 
communities the Hatsi-Kaddish is identical on all the above occasions. In his 
posthumously published collection Der Frankfurter Kantor, 31 Lithuanian- 
born Fabian Ogutsch (1845-1922), who served as hazzan in Frankfurt's 
leading Orthodox synagogue and documented the South German nusah, 
stipulates that the underlying melody used for all of Tfillat Tal and Tfillat 
Geshem be the one used for High Holiday Musaf Hatsi-Kaddish. In order to 
underline the point, Ogutsch goes on to say that the added liturgical verses 
Li-V'rakhah v'-lo Li-K'lalah ("For blessing and not for curse...") that follow 
the piyyutim for Tal and Geshem should be sung to the melody oiHaYom 
Te'-Amtseinu ("Strengthen us Today") that follows repetition of the Musaf 
Amidah on Yamim Noraim. 

We Ve already mentioned that before reciting Tal znd Geshem, several 
communities say the Rshut Eil Melekh Ne'eman, and others say Hin'ni He'- 
Ani MiMa'as. In the Ashkenazic rite, Tal and Geshem fall under the head- 
ing "Shiv'ata" — a seven-part piyyut-type known as ICrovah that appears 
in the opening blessings of the Amidah repetition for Musaf. The ICrovah 
for Geshem— Af-B'ri (?Af-B'ri is Designated the Prince of Rain") and the 
ICrovah for Tal — B'-Da'ato ("I Speak With God s Consent") were written by 
the same payy'tan (Elazar Kallir, 8 th -century Palestine) and are sung to the 
same melody. 

28 1877: no. 832. 

29 Tel- Aviv: The "Bilu" Synagogue and Cantorial Seminary, vol. 1, 1964, p. 159. 

30 2000: 195. 

31 Frankfurt am Main: Vorstand der Israelitischen Gemeinde, 1930: 48. 


The piyyutim for Geshem and Tal originally contained multiple parts, 
beginning with a "Magein" inserted before the first Amidah blessing, Magein 
Avraham ("Protector of Abraham"), continuing with a "M'hayyeh" inserted 
before the second Amidah blessing, NV-Hayyei HaMeitim ("Who Grants 
Eternal Life to the Departed"), several lengthy alphabetical acrostics, and 
concluding with a direct plea either for gentle Springtime dew on the first day 
of Pesah or for heavy autumnal rain on Sh mini Atseret. Today the lengthy 
(and often unintelligible) acrostics are omitted, leaving only the Magein, the 
M'-Hayyeh and the plea for seasonal Heavenly inundation. The first of these, 
in each case, now serves as as the cantors R shut: Af-B'ri for Geshem; B'-Da'ato 
for Tal. 

Geshem: Af-B'ri utat sheim sar matar, 

Af-B'ri is designated the Prince of Rain 

I'-ha'abiv ul'-ha'anin, I'-harik ul'-hamtar ... 

who gathers the clouds and makes them shower... ; 
Tal: B'-Da'ato abi'a hidot, 

With God s consent, 

b'-am zu b'-zu, b'-tal I'-hahadot... 

to cheer this people by praying for dew... 

In addition to the rationale for offering R shuyot given above (under the 
third subheading: An Ancient Chant That Goes Straight to the Heart, p. 

63), here is a Talmudic source as well. 32 

Rabbi Yohanan said in the name of Menahem from Galyah. "the one who 
passes before the Ark [to lead public prayer] does not say come and pray,' 
but rather, come and draw near... that God may accept our lip-offering, 
that God may grant our needs, wage our battles, and ease our way.' " 

The Talmud's words are incorporated by Elazar Kallir in several Rshut- 
like acrostics that follow the Mehayyeh paragraphs of his Geshem and Tal 

Geshem: Yoreini mah a-dabeir— Teach me, God, what to say 
P'nei teivah I'-oveir... As I pass before Your Ark — 

Koli y'-areiv— Sweeten my voice— 

Rinati l'-fanav I'-kareiv. . . Make my song acceptable. . . 

Tal: G'roni bal yun-tal Let my voice not be deflected 

Mi-kro I'-ravn veni-tal ... From raising its cry to Heaven ... 

Kol mah e-tein — Let my lips utter my meager 

bisfatayim words- 

Hem ani aval s'fatayim. Before You, I am tongue-tied. 

32 Jerusalem Talmud, B'rakhot 1.4. 


Kallir visualized the sh'li'ah tsibbur "carrying Israels fight" as he rose in 
the midst of battle "girded with the weapons of war"— namely, his God-given 
voice. The French rite includes this Rshut for Geshem: 

Ef'ar la-Eil yahid ha-oneh b'-eit tsarah, 

K'halekha natnu li rshut V-vakeish t'fillah ... 

I approach the One God, Who answers in time of peril, 

For Your people have sent me, on their behalf do I plead... 

Sephardi and Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) practice also incorporates R shuyot 
in what it terms Tikkun (Planned Liturgy) Li-T'fillot Tal V'-Geshem, using 
the same wording for both. 

L'shoni konanta, Elohai, YouVe given me tongue to speak, 

my God, 
Va-tivhar b'-shirim she-samta b'-fi, And YouVe picked the songs I 

Tov mi-miskhar. . . All better than worldly 

U-Magini atah, Elohai, al t'-ahar. Now, God my Protector, do not 

This R shut, by Solomon Ibn Gabirol, was recorded by Hazzan Jo Amar ac- 
cording to the nusah of his native Moroccan community. 

Two other R shuyot are recited on Sh mini Atseret (on Simhat Torah, the 
following day, in the diaspora)— for the Hatanim ("Bridegrooms of") Torah 
and B'-Reishi, the last and first portions of the Torah. Among Ashkenazim 
the R shut recited for Hatan Torah is anonymously written: 
Mei-r'shut vnromam al kol b'rakhah V-shir ... 

With permission of the One Who is exalted above all blessing and 

This melody is reminiscent of a chant for the first day of Shavuot: 

Akdamut milin v'-sharayut shuta, avla shakeilna Harman u-r'shuta... 

Before reading the Divine Ten Commandments, let me begin by asking 

Among R shuyot inserted before the early-morning prayer Nishmat kol 
hai t'-vareikh etshimkha ("The soul of every living being blesses Your name"), 
one by Menaheim ben Makhir stands out: 
Nishmat m-lamdei morashah 
The soul of those who teach the Tradition. 

To it was appended a final strophe borrowed from a R shut to Nishmat written 
by Joseph ben Abitur (10 th -century Spain). It is said regularly only in Polish 


practice and by a few Western Ashkenazic communities, on Simhat Torah 
in the diaspora and on Sh mini Atseret in Israel 

Ashkenazic custom also includes special Rshuyot to be recited when 
bridegroom-to-be is called to the Torah on the Sabbath preceding the wed- 
ding, about which I have written in a previous article. 33 The same rite has an 
additional Rshut for the Sabbath preceding Pesah: Shabbat HaGadoL 

A-vo V-hil V-hityatsvah, b'-ma'amad lifnei teivah... 

With fear I present myself, to stand before the Ark... 

It is part of the Musaf K rovah for Shabbat HaGadol, by the payy'tan Yosef 

Elohim, b'-tsa'adkha hakotpatros ... 
"God, as You go forth to smite Pharaoh..." 

This piyyut was set to music by Lithuanian-born Aron Friedmann 34 
(1857-1936), who later served as Chief Cantor of Berlin. Hazzan Dr. Joseph 
Levine of Philadelphia once recorded Friedmanns Avo V'-Hil for me, and 
explained that it opens with a motif used by Lithuanian Jewry for chanting 
the third chapter of Megillat Eikha on Tishah BAv (Ani ha-gever ra'ah oni b'~ 
sheivet evrato)? 5 It continues with two motifs from Kol Nidre (ud'-ishfvana, 
ud'-ahareimna)? 6 and closes with a motif quoted by Abraham Baer as the 
cadence of a Hasidic 7?//o/<i-Niggun for the Shabbat Shaharit hymn, Eil Adon 
(sov'virn oto) 37 (Example 1.). 

A much sought-after author, lecturer and journalist, Akiva Zimmermann has published 
over 500 articles, reviews, essays and books on the history and performance of Jewish 
sacred music, for numerous publishing houses, journals and periodicals, in several 
languages. This survey on a much-neglected aspect of the Traditional liturgy for holy 
days first appeared in the Israeli weekly, HaTsofeh, in two parts: September 29 th and 
October 8th of 2000, and is reprinted in translation here, with permission. 

33 "Piyyutim l'-Shabbat Platan," HaTsofeh, 10 th of Av, 1999, 

34 Schir Lisch'laummau (Berlin: Deutsh-Israelitischen Gemeindebunde), 1901, 
no. 223. 

35 Joseph A. Levine, Synagogue Song in America (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 
Inc.), 2001: 211. 

36 Joseph A. Levine, "The Three-Part Selichah Mode" Journal of Synagogue Music, 
Fall/Winter 2001: 6. 

37 Baal Tefillah, 1877, no. 508a. 


Avo V'Hil L'Hityatsvah 

Yosef Tuv-Olam 

Rshut to ICrovah for Shabbat HaGadol 


Aron Friedmann 
Schir Lisch'laumau, 1901, no. 223 

■ ft^iii i j jjj,jtJjj) I i ^ J J|J i 

J. J p. J J g 

A - vo v' - hil l'-hit-ya- ts' - vah b'-ma - a 


2 JWJ »>;>a^> i j. jyrjJi'j p ^ 

mad p'-nei tei-vah, 

gash-ti r-ro-meimu-l'-sag- g' - vah meir'-shut_ 


da - gul meir'-va - vah. Hil- 

3 — 

3 j^ J n j UN J r tt J J J | pjJ 1 1 J | A^p-^ 

lul ko-ni ak- shi - vah u- v'-hei-kerda - to et ya-sh'-vah, zot_ 

. la -da -at a- 

^ fe r J J >r J) i Lj j j J v J 1 1 ^ | rS7$$& 

hash' vat mit-ta - am hakh'-mei y'- shi- vah. 

Ta - ein o-lamam-li - kha y' -ha- 

3-—y r— 3— 1 n\ 

5 l^ g g Jg J' f > | ^ p p p J' J | j >J'jj^j} fe 



vi a-lavash-li - khah, k' - rash_ l'-fa- nav et hal'-khahlif-to-ahbid-varha-la-khah.Mil- 


r ft m dJP ' fLPi'LTf 7 p i Er?*^ r J 

lat pi g' -du- shah no -tseir he-sedak-di - shah, sal - seil b'- 

3 ^^ 3 

7 ^ c£ft r f H j ^ jl i r cci r^^ i >j>S^j j^ 

dat ha- da - shah meir'- shut 


ei- dah_hak-k'-do-shah. P' 

3 ^ *, . 3 

a u g c; > J jj 1 J g=g jyhj' >Q i Pfjpf 

nei y'-sha- rim do-veir tsi - ha-tsu-ah a-ma-rim a-gab-beir, kid- dam-ti lit-tol b'- sei - 
3 r—3^ __3 3_ _ r\ 

* M b j. jiQ J.J-J3J 3 > | i7]J^J i j r r i Q- i 

u x WrV 

ver r'-shut mei-rav 

v'- ha 


veir. Shad - dai, hei- 

a tempo 




li t' am - meits ta-a - dif kat v'-ko - meits, l'-va - eir b' - li she - 

mets hil- khot_ 

bi - ur_ 


Example 1. Aron Friedmanns setting ofA-vo V'-Hil, the Rshut to Yosef Tuv- 
Olam s Musaf ICrovah for Shabbat HaGadol — Elohim, B'-Tsa'adkha Hakot Patros. 


Lower Extensions of the Minor Scale in Ashkenazi Prayer 
Music, with Emphasis on High Holidays and Festivals 

ByBoaz Tarsi 

Most discussions of music theory in Ashkenazi 1 Jewish prayer music, whether 
directly addressing the issue, taking it into consideration, or ignoring it, are 
affected by the fact that this repertoire features a unique combination of 
Western and non- Western musical traits. 2 A detailed exploration of the phe- 
nomenon deserves a separate discussion. 3 Nevertheless, taking this matter into 
account may be the key to explaining an otherwise impenetrable quandary. 4 
One aspect of the problem is a perceived lack of tonal clarity in some pas- 

1 The term Ashkenazi originally referred to the Jewish community, practice, 
and tradition that originated in the Middle Ages in the Rhine lands (I use it here in its 
modern, most common definition, which embraces traditions and practices from all 
European origins except Spain, parts of the Balkans, most of the Jewish communities 
in Italy), and some traditions in European communities that have kept the practices 
of pre- 1492 Spain. 

2 I wish to thank The Lucius N. Littauer Foundation for its generous support of 
the research for this article. 

3 Following Daliah Cohens general idea of "modal framework" as it appears in 
"The Meaning of the Modal Framework in the Singing of Religious Hymns by Christian 
Arabs in Israel," Yuval2 (1971): 23-57 zn&Mizrach Uma'arav Bamusica (Jerusalem: The 
Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1986). I would suggest that although it still has 
not been thoroughly demonstrated, at this stage there is enough evidence to show that 
the tradition of Ashkenazi prayer music constitutes such a modal framework. Cohens 
model reveals the aforementioned combination of Western and non- Western traits. 
For an initial foray into the layout of traditional Ashkenazi prayer music as a modal 
framework see Boaz Tarsi, "Observations on Practices of Nusach in America," Asian- 
Music 33, no. 2 (2002): 176-79. 

4 Among many examples, the most illuminating is the contradiction between Max 
Wolbergs presentation and that of Leib Glantz, which involved them in a three-sided 
debate with Joseph Yasser {Proceedings of the Seventh Annual Conference-Convention 
of the Cantors Assembly of America and the Department of Music of the United Syna- 
gogue of America (New York, 1954, 36-46). Other examples— in the works of Boruch 
Cohon, Avraham Zvi Idelsohn, Joseph Levine, and Eric Werner — are mentioned in 
Boaz Tarsi, "Toward a Clearer Definition of the Magen Avot Mode," Musica Judaica 
16 (2001-2): 53-79 and Boaz Tarsi, "The Adonai Malach Mode in Ashkenazi Prayer 
Music: The Problem Stated and a Proposed Outlook based on Musical Characteristics," 
Proceedings of the Thirteenth World Congress of Jewish Studies (2001), http: //www. More examples may be found in the works of Isadore 
Freed, Johanna Spector, Max Wohlberg, Joseph Yasser, and others. 


sages in the liturgical repertoire. The following discussion attempts to find a 
solution as well as lay out the overall pattern within which this phenomenon 
can be explained. A significant aspect of the process touches upon an area, 
yet to be fully and accurately described, of tangential points in the study of 
Ashkenazi liturgical music, tonal music of the Western tradition, and the 
theory of church music. One of the most important aspects of this explora- 
tion is the particular definition and function of tonic and tonus finalis within 
the context of the repertoire. Therefore, this subject must be discussed before 
investigating the phenomenon itself. 

Tonic and Tonus Finalis 

Ashkenazi prayer music characteristically combines tonal and modal ele- 
ments. 5 This is partly a consequence of the aforementioned amalgam of 
Eastern and Western traits, and partly an intrinsic phenomenon. This com- 
bination directly affects the definition and role of, as well as the interplay 
between tonic and tonus finalis. The melody for Akdamut is a good starting 
point for the exploration of this phenomenon as it is reflected in Ashkenazi 
prayer music. The similarity between the music for Akdamut and the music 
for Gregorian chant stems primarily from the psalmody-like structure of this 
chant. In his discussion of psalmody in Jewish music, Joseph Levine provides 
the following description: " ... (a melodic stencil [that] ... hinge [s] on a caesura 
near its center ... [and consists of] both antecedent and consequent half ... 
comprising] two equal phrases, balanced by a pausal fulcrum." 6 The text of 
Akdamut is not a psalm text and does not display a psalm s constituent parallel- 
ism or other textual characteristics. The musical chant for Akdamut, however, 
consists of the perpetual repetition of one musical phrase that perfectly fits 
Levine s description. 7 Although I would not necessarily argue that Akdamut 
is psalmody, the music considered apart from the text exhibits some of the 
markers of Gregorian chant and would be identified as psalmody (see Example 
l). 8 The closest correspondences in church music are with the first half (the 

5 For a discussion of tonal and modal characteristics in some selections from 
the repertoire of Ashkenazi liturgical music see Boaz Tarsi, "On a Particular case of 
Tonal, Modal, and Motivic in Sources for Liturgical Music of East and West European 
Origins," in Iggud — Selected Essays in Jewish Studies (2007): 145-164, particularly p. 

6 Joseph Levine, "Psalmody," Journal of Synagogue Music \% no. 2 (1982): 38. 

7 Levine does not discuss Akdamut in his paper, but his general position is that 
most Jewish chant is, at its core, psalmody or derived from it. 

8 I initially identified the similarity between Akdamut and Gregorian chant 
in my article, "Tonality and Motivic Interrelationships in the Performance Prac- 


intonation, dominant, and mediation) of psalm tone 8 and with the psalm 
tone for Easter week. 9 Because of this dose resemblance to Gregorian chant, 
Akdamut may serve as one clear case of a tonus finalis in Jewish liturgical 
music, appearing and functioning as in Gregorian chant. 



mediatio (flexa?) 

Ak- da-mut mi- lin ve-sha-ra-yut shu-ta_ 


_ har-man ur-shu-ta 

Example 1. Suggested elements of Gregorian chant in Akdamut 

The analysis of the Akdamut phrase in terms of Gregorian chant serves primar- 
ily to identify & finalis. Within the context where it appears in the Ashkenazi 
prayer music repertoire, the phrase clearly shows tonal characteristics. If we 
examine this pattern from a tonal point of view we find that the tonic is not 
the same as the tonus finalis, but rather a fourth above it. Moreover, in the 
services of the Three Festivals this pattern appears not in abstraction or as a 
separate unit, but integrated into a larger section. In these cases the Akdamut 
tune is incorporated into repertoire sections that are primarily of free, Western 
character and are clearly tonal. An examination of the Akdamut tune in this 
context confirms my observation regarding the presence of & finalis and a 
tonic, as well as their scale-degree relationships. One example is in the Kid- 

tice of Nusach," Journal of Synagogue Music 21, no. 1 (1991): 5-27, from which 
Example 1 is taken. Discussions of this connection were later pursued in JoAnn 
Rice, "Precedents and Antecedents of Akdamut" (MSM Thesis, The Jewish Theo- 
logical Seminary of America, 1994) and Daniel Katz, "From Mount Sinai to the 
Year 2000: A Study of the Interaction of Oral Tradition and Written Sources in the 
Transmission of an Ashkenazi Liturgical Chant (Akdamut)" Riv is ta Internazionale 
diMusica Sacra 20, no. 1 (1999): 175-206. 

9 Dom Dominic Johner, A New School of Gregorian Chant, based on the fifth 
enlarged German edition by Hermann Erpf and Max Ferrars (New York and Cincin- 
nati: Frederick Pustet, 1925), 73, 79. 1 am not suggesting that Akdamut is identical to 
psalm tones, but rather that it contains elements of this practice, which in turn make 
it possible to address it in Gregorian chant terms (see Example 1 and footnote 8). Fur- 
thermore, "psalmody" is yet another term whose relevance and role within the context 
of Ashkenazi liturgical music still needs to be explored and denned. Initial steps (the 
more successful ones are those pertaining to the non- Ashkenazi Jewish tradition) 
have been taken in works such as Reinhard Flender, Hebrew Psalmody: A Structural 
Investigation, Yuval Monograph Series, vol. 9 Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1992) and 
Levine, "Psalmody" 


dush on the evening of the Three Festivals, as the following setting by Louis 
Lewandowski demonstrates. 10 

Tonal proof (G major) 

•'j j ^ \ uiii^ ^m 

Akdamut tune 

-H «"H 

Dn K "N 

^ J 

— • 

Example 2. Three Festivals Kiddush by Lewandowski 

I found many similar examples in the cantorial manuscripts. 11 In Lewan- 
dowski s setting, a tonality of G major is clearly established while the finalis 
of the inserted Akdamut chant is D, yielding a chant pattern with both a tonic 
and a finalis, each on a different scale degree. 

Let us briefly account for other cases that exemplify the same phenomenon. 
Among the various characteristics of the magen avot mode is the prevailing 
sense of a tonal center. 12 Nevertheless, the closing cadences in all the textual 
paragraphs of the liturgical section that are chanted in this mode, including 
the last one, do not end on the tonic but rather introduce a finalis on 5. 13 A 
similar phenomenon can be observed in the evening service for the Three 

10 Louis Lewandowski, Kol Rinnoh U'T'fillah: em und zweistimmige Gesdngefiir 
den israelitischen Gottesdienst, 16th ed. (Frankfurt am Main: J. KaufTmann Verlag, 
1921; first edition, 1871), 51-52. 

II For example, there is an almost identical setting by Abraham Baer in Baal 
T'fillah oder der practische Vorbeter (Frankfurt am Main: Verlag von J. KaufTmann, 
1905; first edition: Leipzig, 1877), 201. 

12 Magen Avot is an insiders term that refers to a stock of motifs and other musi- 
cal characteristics within a minor scale whose usage is connected with specific texts, 
textual functions, and occasion and ritual considerations. For a discussion of the 
perceptions of the mode and a proposed model for its definition see Tarsi, "Toward a 
Clearer Definition of the Magen Avot Mode." 

13 The exception to this rule is that in about half the settings, the first paragraph 
(Vaychulu) ends on the tonic. A detailed discussion and a possible explanation of this 
phenomenon are provided in ibid. 63-64. 


Festivals. When the cantillations for the High Holidays are chanted in the 
specific order ascribed by the text to which they are assigned in this occasion, 
they construct a musical section whose tonality may be perceived as minor 
with & finalis located a step below the tonic. 

Another instance of tonic versus finalis in connection to cantillations 
can be observed in the reading from the book of Esther during Purim. Here 
the set of cantillations includes a number of patterns in minor and some in 
the relative major. 14 In most traditions the linear unfolding of these patterns 
results in a "piece" in which many important cadences, and sometimes the 
endings of phrases, are on neither the major nor the minor tonic but rather 
on what would be the fourth scale degree, hence another case of a finalis on 
a note other than the tonic. These cadences often also introduce the leading 
tone to the fourth degree, a note that belongs in neither the original minor 
nor its relative major. A related phenomenon occurs in the ritual chanting 
of the Torah in the Sabbath morning and afternoon services and on Monday 
and Thursday mornings. 15 The reading is normally divided into several sec- 
tions (Aliyot). The overall tonality of the chant is in a major key; however, 
each Ally ah concludes with a short phrase in minor, and the finalis is a third 
below the tonic. 16 

We must note, however, that since the tradition of Ashkenazi prayer 
music is practiced within a system that is fundamentally different from that 
of church music, any terms and concepts borrowed from the latter (includ- 
m% finalis) need to be re-examined and applied with careful consideration 
and perhaps with adjusted definitions. Related considerations, such as the 

14 In the case of the cantillations for Purim, the specific relationship between the 
two differs among the various traditions, but in all cases we can either define the minor s 
tonic as the predominating tonality and view the major patterns as borrowed from the 
relative major, or vice versa. Generally speaking, in any section of cantillation reading 
(not only the Megilla) it is difficult to determine the tonality and the tonal center due 
to the circular, modular, and mosaic structure in which cantillation patterns are put 

15 Eliyahu Schleifer of the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem brought this ex- 
ample to my attention. 

16 This may be explained as an anticipation of the blessings that immediately 
follow each Aliyah, which are chanted in minor. For more about the phenomenon of 
anticipation in synagogue music see Eliyahu Schleifer, "Anticipation in the Ashkenazi 
Synagogue Chant," OrbisMusicae 9 (1986): 90-102. As in the case of biblical cantilla- 
tions, here too it is difficult to locate the tonic of these blessings, primarily because of 
their pentatonic nature; thus the term finalis in this case is even more appropriate. 


issue of plagal modes, may not be relevant at all, or may apply only in a few 
exceptional cases. 

Tonic and Tonus Finalis in the Closing Service of Yom Kippur 

The coexistence of tonal and modal elements in general, and a tonic and tonus 
finalis specifically, is at the root of a better understanding of the theory behind 
the Ashkenazi musical tradition of the Kaddish for Ne'ilah. The following 
setting by Joseph Heller represents most occurrences of this phenomenon 
in the Ne'ilah service. 17 

Coro. Sol ° 

Jis-gad- dal w'-jis-ka- dasch sch' me rab - bo 

nj u jt3J 


o - men 

I 3 1 

b'-o - 1' 




mo di - w' ro chi - r'-u - seh w'jam - lich ma-l'-chu-seh b' chaj-je- 

i i— ^ ^3 3 

' r" r f r I J i Jj J"] I JV I 1 11 n I Q i ihh 

chon u- w'jo-me-chon u - w' chaj - je d'-cholbes jis-ro - el_ 


17 Joseph Heller, Kol T'hilloh: Vierstimmige Chore und Soli sowie Recitative 
fur den isrdelitischen Gottesdienst mit und ohne Begleitung der Orgel, Zweiter Teil: 
Vollstondiger G ottesdienst fur die Neujahr stage und das Versohnungifest (Brunn: Carl 
Winiker, 1914), 296-97. Other examples of the Kaddish can be found in the manuscripts 
of Israel Alter, Abraham Baer, Moritz Deutsch, Gershon Ephros, Aron Friedmann, 
Elieser Gerovitsch, an unnamed source in (Cantor ial Anthology of Traditional and 
Israeli Synagogue Music, ed. Meir Shimeon Geshuri [Tel Aviv: The "Bilu" Synagogue 
and Cantorial Seminary "Sela" Edition, 1964], 365), Leib Glantz, Max Grauman, Todros 
Greenberg, Joseph Heller, Michel Heymann (interview by Chana Englard, 1988, tape 
recording, National Sound Archive, Jerusalem), Avraham Zvi ldelsohn, Alois Kaiser 
and William Sparger, Adolph Katchko, N.H. Katz and L. Waldbott, Maier Kohn, Isaak 
Lachmann, Louis Lewandowski, Samuel Naumbourg, Joshua Neeman, David Nowa- 
kowsky, Fabian Ogutsch, Jacob Rapoport (manuscript page provided by Lawrence 
Avery), Shimon Reizen (manuscript page provided by Lawrence Avery), Loew Sanger 
(in Avraham Zvi ldelsohn, Thesaurus of Hebrew Oriental Melodies, vol. 7 [Leipzig: 
Friedrich Hofmeister, 1933], 180-81), Selig Scheuermann, Herman Semiatin, Elias 
Shnipelisky, Pinchas Spiro, Salomon Sulzer, Salomon and Hirsch Weintraub, Abba 
Weisgal, Joshua Weisser, Meyer Wodak, and Max Wohlberg (in his compilation of 
materials for the training of cantors at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America). 


lo u-wis-manko - riw w'-i - m' ru o-men 


it >ilm 

* . lJ ^=Z: 



*• * * ^m- ■*■• ^^ ^m- 


ar w jis-ro-man w jis-nas - se_ 

w' - jis - had-dor w' jis - al - leh w 
Coro. Sol ° 

- n j -j-n 


J. g M ±~— z^jfc^z 




b'-rich hu 1 -ei - la_ 

jis hal-lol sch'-mehd'-ku-d'-scho b'-rich_ hu 

1' ei 

f i - i r r rcj - n i - L i M -L? Jj JJ 1 ^ ^ 


-lo mik - kol bir-cho-so w'- schi-ro - so 

tusch- b'-cho - so w' - ne-che- mo - so_ 


da-a-mi-ron b' ol- l'-mo w'-i-m'-ru 

Example 3. Heller's setting for the Ne'ilah Kaddish 

In the music for the Ne'ilah service, the tonic versus tonis finalis relation- 
ship is more complicated than in the cases mentioned so far. In a conference 
presentation, Leib Glantz set out, among other objectives, to establish a 
connection between the Nei'lah Kaddish and the traditional music for other 
liturgical occasions. He did so by way of an assumed scale structure: 

The original "Yekum Purkon" prayer of Sabbath "Musaf," as well as the 
other basic Sabbath tefillot, which are shaped in the "Yekum Purkan" 
nusach contain in themselves all of the features mentioned above. It is 
fascinating to observe that some of the "Mi-sinai" nuschaot, contain only 
one feature or one variation of this "Yekum Purkan" nusach — either the 
seven-step, ten-step, or thirteen-step line. As a striking example of the 
most elementary type of major scale, namely: the original Mixolydian 


seven-step, two-tetrachord line, we can mention the famous "Neilah" 
Kaddish. 18 

He then provides a short example in which all the notes from this section of 
the Ne'ilah service are explained within the Mixolydian mode. 

| tt *JJ l JjJJJJ JV \ rr 

^ju^ni ^ 


7-step Mixolydian 


Example 4. Sample for Neilah Kaddish and scalar explanation as presented by Glantz 

How Glantz came to this conclusion is clear. Indeed if we were to consider 
the first (and in Glantz s example also the last) note as the first scale degree 
and then arrange the note collection in his example in an ascending sequential 
order, the resulting configuration would be a Mixolydian scale. Of course, this 
result would be the outcome of a merely mechanical procedure, overlooking 
the basic premise that any theoretical argument must reflect the reality of 
the musical phenomenon it discusses. In his desire to associate the Ne'ilah 
prayer with other liturgical settings byway of the Mixolydian mode, 19 Glantz 
fails to recognize that a section s beginning and even ending on a certain note 
does not exclude the possibility of a tonic on a different note. In addition, his 
explanation overlooks the possibility of a conflict between identifying a tonic 
and assuming that all the notes in a given piece are a part of a preexisting scale 
structure, without taking away from the sense of tonality and tonic presence. 
For example, the frequent presence of F# in a piece in A minor does not nec- 
essarily indicate that the scale is not minor or that the tonic is not A. 

Granted, the rendition featured in Glantz s example is more conducive to 
his conclusion than any examples from the canon of the Ashkenazi tradition. 
Barely within the boundaries of the musical model for Ne'ilah, the example 
he provides is very short and consists of only three motifs, two of which are 
cadences. The facts that one of the cadences is on the assumed Mixolydian 

18 Leib Glantz, "The Musical Basis of Nusach Hatefillah," Proceedings of the Fifth 
Annual Conference- Convention of the Cantors Assembly of America and the Depart- 
ment of Music of the United Synagogue of America (Kiamesha Lake, N. Y.: Cantors 
Assembly, 1952): 19. 

19 This scalar explanation reflects an approach that is implemented in other cases 
in his presentation, which also present the same weaknesses as those in his discussion 
oi Neilah. 


tonic and the other one in minor a fifth above it, 20 and that there is no addi- 
tional musical material in the example, make his conclusion more likely. Most 
important, there are none of the clear cadences that include a leading tone 
in the minor key, which are so prevalent throughout the canon (see Example 
3). The piece is examined out of context and overlooks any evidence from the 
body of traditional repertoire. 21 

Trying to fit the modes of Ashkenazi prayer music into the mold of the 
"Greek modes" did not begin with the work of Leib Glantz. In fact Glantz s 
approach is an anachronism that harkens back to the perceptions of the 19 th 
and early-20 th centuries, as reflected in the work of Moritz Deutsch, Aron 
Friedmann, Josef Goldstein, Isaak Lachmann, Samuel Naumbourg, Josef 
Singer, and Hirsch Weintraub. 22 In this respect it ignores the revolutionary 
effect of Avraham Zvi Idelsohns work and that of his followers. For example, 
the key signature (but not the actual musical content) in Aron Friedmann s 
setting may suggest the same Mixolydian perception. 23 Eric Werner s discus- 

20 Interestingly, this cadence features a motif typical of the Tal-Geshem settings, 
which is not typically found in Ne'ilah. This is despite Glantzs secondary objective, 
to make a distinction between the two. On the other hand, he may have deliberately 
included it within the example in order to show the need for his discussion in the first 
place in addition to this motif s present role in taking away from the strength of the 
minor tonic by omitting the leading tone. 

21 The very existence of such an irregular setting, much more conducive to sup- 
porting his point, is questionable. Although it includes two characteristic motifs, there 
is no evidence of such a version in the literature. Even Glantz s own claim regarding 
authenticity elsewhere in his presentation (his attributing the High Holiday "Ovos" 
section to Bezalel Odesser, by way of Avram Kalechnik) is missing here. What adds to 
the questionable value of this example within the context of Glantzs thesis is that it is 
not uncharacteristic of him to change traditional material or manipulate it in ways that 
would render it suitable to his ideology and personal views regarding this tradition. For 
a detailed discussion of this phenomenon in the work of Leib Glantz see Boaz Tarsi, 
"Music Theory as an Expression of Musical and Extra-Musical Views Reflected in Leib 
Glantz s Liturgical Settings," The Man Who Spoke to God, Jerry Glantz, ed. (Tel-Aviv: 
Institute for Jewish Liturgical Music), 2008. 

22 For a detailed review of these sources see primarily Max Wohlberg, "The His- 
tory of the Musical Modes of the Ashkenazic Synagogue and Their Usage," Proceedings 
of the Seventh Annual Conference-Convention of the Cantors Assembly of America 
and the Department of Music of the United Synagogue of America (Highmont, N.Y.: 
Cantors Assembly, 1954), 36-42 and to a lesser degree, Hanoch Avenary, "The Concept 
of Mode in European Synagogue Chant," Yuval2 (1971): 11-21. 

23 Aron Friedmann, (Berlin: Deutsch-Israelitischen Gemei- 
ndenbunde, 1901), 315. 


sion, which indeed relies on a few measures cited from Friedmann s setting, 
reflects a similar misconception. He uses the music for Ne'ilah as an example 
of "certain modally contrived passages. Of these, the Mixolydian scale is most 
frequent (a major scale without a leading tone), and a few Hypodorian pat- 
terns occur also, giving a simple melody a somewhat exotic flavor, as in the 
Kaddish of Ne'ilah: 2 * 

The key signature in Friedmann s manuscript could be an artifact of a dif- 
ferent version of the Ne'ilah that is in fact in major (based on a fourth above 
the beginning note, hence the "false Mixolydian effect"). 25 It may also reflect a 
transitional perception in which the key is no longer major (nor Mixolydian) 
but the key signature has remained. 26 

All of this notwithstanding, Glantzs description does constitute an oppor- 
tunity for further elucidation of theory connected to Ashkenazi prayer music. 
It clearly illustrates that the traditional music for the Ne'ilah prayer, as well as 
other portions of this repertoire, can be molded neither into traditional tonal 
theory nor into any pre-existing modal system. Although we may use some 
elements from the theory of other musics, their specific definitions do not 
apply to much of this repertoire, and imposing them can lead to misconcep- 
tions and a lack of clarity. 

The simplest explanation for Heller s setting in Example 3, without account- 
ing for all of its constituent motifs, sub-phrases, and notes, is that the overall 

24 Eric Werner, A Voice Still Heard: the Sacred Songs of the Ashkenazic Jews 
(University Park and London: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1976), 30. 

25 As featured in Deutsch, Heymann, ldelsohn (Thesaurus, vol. 7), Kaiser and 
Sparger, Kohn, Lewandowski, Naumbourg, Ogutsch, Sanger, Scheuermann, Sulzer, 
and Wodak, as well as the second Deutsche Weise in Baer and Lachmanns "Minhag 
Ashkenaz" version. 

26 A geographical component may also be at play. Baers distinction between Polish 
and German practice suggests such a factor rather than, or in addition to, the speculated 
evolutionary one. Other possible support for this may be deduced from Lachmanns 
manuscript, which titles the version in major "Lefi Minhag Ashkenaz" 'as practiced in 
Ashkenaz, and the version discussed here, "Lefi Minhag Polin? 'as practiced in Poland. 
Further support for this notion is reflected in Idelsohns Thesaurus in which the major 
version by Sanger is included in the volume that features the tradition of South-German 
Jews, (ldelsohn, Thesaurus, vol. 7, 58-59), and the minor version is found in the volume 
of the East-European tradition (ldelsohn, Thesaurus, vol. 8, 180-81). I observe, how- 
ever, that although the major version is only found in Germanic and West-European 
sources, some manuscripts of this origin feature the minor-lower extension version. 
For a detailed examination of these historical and geographical factors see Tarsi, "On 
a Particular Case of Tonal, Modal, and Motivic in Sources," 159-164. 


predominating tonality is A minor. Indeed in all the examined cases (except 
for the alternative major-key version discussed above and in footnotes 25-26) 
there is a clear sense of "Western" gravitation toward a tonal center, even in 
the few that do not include many cadences on the minor tonic. In Example 3, 
if it were not for measures 1 1 and 36-37, there would be no question regarding 
the minor tonality at all. The possible doubt regarding the tonality, as well as 
the root of Glantz s explanation, stems of course from those segments that 
include foreign notes and cadences, whose combination with the foreign 
notes may point to a different tonality as well as a different tonic. 

Hellers setting reflects a predominating minor tonality incorporating only 
a few elements that suggest otherwise. There are significantly more cadences 
on A (tonic) than on D (finalis). Moreover, these are primarily cadences that 
occur before choral responses, at the end of such responses, and at the end 
of each of the first three sub-phrases in the beginning (mm. 3, 7, 15, 18, 22, 
26, 30, 35, and 42), all of which unequivocally establish the A-minor tonal- 
ity. Furthermore, almost all of the segment endings in Heller s setting (his 
manuscript subdivides the liturgical sections into numbered segments) are on 
the minor tonic. Nevertheless, the presence of at least a potential for a finalis 
is also clear. Most significantly, the final cadence (mm. 23-24) of the second 
section, "Avot" in Hellers manuscript, ends on the finalis? 1 In addition to 
this function, the finalis appears as the ending note at a few structurally and 
motivically significant points. 28 In Heller s setting, it is found on the words 
"d'chol bes jisra'el',' &s well as on "uwizman koriw" (mm. 10-12, 14 —15) and 
toward the end of the Kaddish on the words "tuschb'choso w'nechemoso" (mm. 
36 — 37) and "da'amiron VoVmo" (mm. 38 — 39). A similar balance can be found 
in most other sources that feature this version oiNe'ilah. 

Yet other sources exhibit a stronger and clearer presence of the finalis. 29 
These sources feature a more balanced ratio between cadences on the finalis 
and on the tonic, and some of them use the finalis on the final cadences. Nev- 
ertheless, they are not essentially different from the sources represented by 
Heller in the context, motivic function, and structural function of the finalis. 
They differ more in the sense of how prevalent the finalis is, and whether or 
not it actually functions as the tone on which the section ends. 

Although connected to different motivic and structural elements, cadences 
on the tonic and on the finalis in these settings are interchangeable so far as 

27 Heller, Kol T'hilloh, 298, no. 805. 

28 The motifs connected to these points will be discussed later. In addition, it is 
here that we find an illustration of the perceived paradox regarding the finalis. 

29 For example, see Gerovitsch, Grauman, Greenberg, Idelsohn, Neeman, Reizen, 
and Shnipelisky. 


their location within the section is concerned. More than connection to a 
designated place, the tonic and the finalis primarily reflect either a tonal or a 
modal element— their placement within each section and phrase will depend 
on whether a modal or a tonal component is present. Thus the fact that a set- 
ting such as the one by Friedmann ends on D does not curtail its dominating 
A-minor tonality but instead reflects a modal element on the finalis rather 
than a tonal cadence on the tonic. 

Obviously this creates what seems to be a paradox: depending on which 
element is placed at the end of a section, it would either end on the tonic or 
the finalis. Thus we may find cadences on the finalis in the middle of a sec- 
tion as well as final cadences that are not on the finalis, hence undermining 
and perhaps contradicting the meaning of the term finalis. But more than a 
paradox, this is one manifestation of the fact that terms borrowed from modal 
church music may need to be modified when applied to Ashkenazi prayer 
music. In this case, the finalis is literally a final note only within some modal 
components or musical fragments. Depending on the location and function 
of such a component in the musical or liturgical unit, it may be a \itevd\finalis, 
a central tone, a point of reference for important structural cadences, that 
which is attached to specific musical gestures, or a marker for a distinct motif 
or phrase, most often of modal characteristic or origin. 30 

It seems that the finalis in Ashkenazi prayer music has inherent qualities 
beyond those discussed so far. It is a point of reference and a certain source of 
gravity that is different from that of a tonic, yet it is still felt whether it func- 
tions as a final tone or not. To the practitioner and participants conversant 
with the idiomatic musical language of this discipline, the finalis provides a 
sense of destination and completion, a feeling that this is where the music, 
the phrase, the section, or the idiomatic musical gesture is leading. It is not so 

30 Although it involves a degree of speculation, in the case of the Neilah music 
we may also consider this a product of either evolution or geography, separate from 
the topic discussed above and in footnote 26. In this view, the older versions of this 
prayer might have consistently ended with a cadence on the finalis, and in time, the 
tonal elements expressed here by the minor key became more prominent and led to 
an ending cadence on the minor tonic. This would be supported by the fact that the 
later versions (such as settings in Katchko, Alter, Spiro, Weisser, Ephros, Weisgal, 
Wohlberg, to a certain extent Greenberg, and the common practice in America) are 
primarily in minor, end on minor cadences (not Greenberg), include a strong presence 
of the minors leading tone, and assign the finalis and its modal components to only 
few fragments within the section. But these later versions and variants as well as the 
American practice (much of which is reflected in the same sources) are also of East- 
European and Lithuanian origins. 


much inherent in the "music itself" (regardless of context and cultural conven- 
tions) as the tonic in tonal music. Rather it results from a conditioned sense 
of "home base" feeling that the culturally experienced participants intuit. It 
thus identifies, to various degrees, a sort of "modal gravity" as opposed to a 
tonal one— yet another facet of the genre that is primarily modal in nature. 
For instance, despite the clear sense of gravity toward the tonic on G in Ex- 
amples 1 and 2, the conditioned insider expects the ending of the phrase (in 
Example 1) to be on D, and would sense a lack of completion or closure if it 
ended on a different note. 

Perhaps this can serve as additional distinction between tonic %n& finalis 
in this context. If the phrase in Example 1 were to end on the tonic, the lis- 
tener would feel a sense of tonal completion; however, because it did not end 
on the finalis, there is a lack of completion or closure so far as the idiomatic 
expression is concerned. Thus the presence and function of & finalis are felt 
whether it actually sounds in the music or not. In view of this observation, it 
is evident that Glantz s assumption that G is the tonic and therefore that the 
scale is Mixolydian is an outcome of his erroneous perception of the note s 
function, i.e., confusing the finalis for a tonic. 

Thus the opening parts of the Ne'ilah prayer (mainly the Kaddish and 
the Avot) are yet another case in which both a tonic and a finalis on a note 
other than the tonic are present. As in some of the similar cases mentioned 
earlier, the tonality is minor and the finalis is located a fifth below the tonic. 
But unlike these cases, the Ne'ilah section presents a distinctive formation 
embedded in the intervallic area between the tonic and the finalis. It comprises 
a pentachord that does not diatonically belong to the minor and cannot be 
explained within its framework. This pentachord is identical to the lower 
pentachord of the major scale, including the major third, which introduces 
a note that is foreign to the present minor tonality. Thus it constitutes what 
I call a "lower extension"— an added major pentachord located below the 
tonic of the minor scale. The Ne'ilah music, therefore, is in minor with a 
major-pentachord lower extension, the lowest note of which is the finalis. 
This explains the tonal center, the tonality, and all of the present notes. In 
Example 3, the lower-extension paradigm accounts for the F# and the sense 
of D major in measures 11, 36 and 37, as well as the G# in measures 6, 17, 18, 
20, 21 and 41, and the overall A-minor tonality. 

Consistent with tonal versus modal perception, it seems there are two 
levels of musical scheme here that constitute a modality that is unique to this 
repertoire. One, in minor and above the tonic, is tonal and free of motivic 
considerations; the other is modal and contained within the lower extension, 


which is attached mostly to specific motifs. Among these motifs are the "Three 
Festivals B'rachah cadence" the "Revia motif" and (in the Ne'ilah service) 
the "sequence motif" The latter is a pattern that appears in many different 
occasions throughout the liturgy. Its primary characteristic is the repetition 
of the basic motivic unit as a sequence. 31 

J ^ i ii j j m j j 

Example 5. Lower-extension sequence motif 

Both the lower-extension explanation for this material, and viewing it not 
as a Ne'ilah peculiarity but rather as a general and sui generis phenomenon, 
are further supported by other facets of the repertoire that connect to various 
sections of the liturgy. Indeed Joseph Heller s setting may offer the link to 
such cases when we observe the Ne'ilah patterns as they continue beyond the 
Kaddish section. As discussed before, while the Kaddish is primarily in minor 
and the next section ends on the finalist 2 the pattern continues through the 
lines of the following Piyyut, "Misod Chachamim'.' The final cadence of this 
phrase is in minor (see Example 6), and the final cadence of the next phrase 
is an even stronger affirmation of the minor tonality, incorporating the sig- 
nature closing cadence for the High Holidays. 33 As Example 6 shows, there is 
no doubt that the prevailing tonality here is still A minor and the pattern for 
Misod Chachamim is located within the area of the lower extension. 

31 I discuss this motivic phrase thoroughly in "Tonality and Motivic Interrela- 
tionships in the Performance Practice of Nusach," 22. Eric Werner also mentions it in 
his discussion of the "wandering motif" in "The Music of Post-Biblical Judaism," The 
New Oxford History of Music: Ancient and Oriental Music, vol. 1, ed. Egon Wellesz 
(London, New York, and Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1959), 313-35. 

32 Heller, Kol Thilloh, 298, end of no. 805. 

33 Ibid. no. 807. 


ef-t' chohpi bi-s'-fil-loh u - w' sa-cha- nu - nim l'-chal- los u- V chan- 


me - lech mo - le ra - cha- mim_ 


chel w' so - le - ach la - a - wo - nim. 

Example 6. Misod Chachamim in Heller's setting for Ne'ilah 

A similar tonal and motivic context for Misod Chachamim can be found in 
practically all the Ne'ilah sources that include a setting for this liturgical poem. 
But more important, examining the motif for Misod Chachamim within this 
context can serve as the bridge between the lower extensions presence and 
function in the Ne'ilah setting and other sections of the repertoire. The Misod 
Chachamim text is not unique to the Ne'ilah service but appears throughout 
the entire High Holiday liturgy; its designated music constitutes a short tune 
(see Example 7) that follows the same pattern in all instances during the High 
Holidays in which this Piyyut, its equivalent, 34 or fragments thereof appear. 

I . i s . 1 j j J JT3.I mjjij . h-TCTJJt 

Mi-sodcha-cha-mim un - vo- nim 


med da-atme-vi-nim_ 

Example 7. Misod Chachamim tune as it appears throughout the High Holidays 

Lower Extension in the Liturgy for the Three Festivals 

The notes of the beginning of the chant pattern demonstrated in Example 7 
are identical to those of the beginning of the Ne'ilah music, and the pattern 
itself falls within the ambitus of the lower extension. As such, its structural 
notes constitute 4, 5 below the tonic, and i. The missing ultimate indicator 
of a lower extension — major 3 — can also be observed in settings such as the 

34 On some occasions, such as the second day of Rosh HaShanah or parts of Yom 
Kippur, as well as in a few occasional lines in some of the more traditional prayer books, 
different texts follow the same poetical, liturgical, and musical structure. 


one for the High Holiday morning services by Heller. 35 Here the Misod Cha- 
chamim motif includes major 3 of the lower extension almost every time it 
appears throughout his setting of the morning services. 

3 - , 



»• r 

»• * 




•" # 


^ 9 

Example 8. Misod Chachamim tune containing an entire lower-extension pentachord 
(including the third degree) from Heller's manuscript 

The link between Misod Chachamim and other sections of the liturgy begins 
with its connection to the specific cadences associated with the chatimot in 
the Cantor s repetition of the Amidah (Chazarat Hashats). The structural 
notes of Misod Chachamim (D, E, A) are the same as the notes of the Three 
Festivals B'rachah motif. Moreover, the pattern for Misod Chachamim itself 
actually contains the Three Festivals B'rachah motif. 




J J71 J JTT l 

Festivals : 
B 'rachah '■ 







Example 9. Misod Chachamim tune and the pattern for the Three Festivals B'rachah 

In measures 12-14 of Hellers setting (Example 3), we find both a Misod 
Chachamim motif and a Three Festivals B'rachah motif (on the words "ba'agolo 
uwisman koriw"). Moreover, not only in Ne'ilah music but also in the context 
of the minor tonality in the Three Festivals morning services, the B'rachah 
cadence is located on the same scale degrees as the motif in Misod Chacha- 
mim (see last measure of Example 14). Thus patterns from the Three Festivals 
morning prayers are also a case in which both a tonic and ^jinalis exist, and 
as in the case of Ne'ilah, the finalis is located a fifth below the tonic. 36 As with 
the Misod Chachamim motif when it appears in the Ne'ilah pattern, the Three 
Festivals B'rachah motif is also embedded within the lower extension. 

The Three Festivals cadence by itself does not provide proof that the 
Three Festivals music contains a scale with a lower extension like the Ne'ilah 
music. This pattern consists of only three notes; the third degree of the 
pentachord — the only one that marks a difference from the minor scale — is 

35 Heller, Kol Thillah, 54. 

36 For further reference to the B'rachah motif in the music of the Three Festivals 
see Eliyahu Schleifer, "Ne'imat 'Nusach Shel Shalosh Regalim Bemasoret Yehudey 
Ashkenaz: Pisuk Musikali Vesulam Yichudi," Duchan 13 (1991): 21-28. 


missing. Nevertheless, because this motif appears within the frame of the 
lower extension in the Ne'ilah pattern and in Misod Chachamim, it reasonably 
follows that this is also the case in the Three Festivals B'rachot. But the most 
convincing support for this notion is provided by cases such as the one in 
Example 10 in which the third degree of the pentachord is in fact included. 37 
This is also found in other manuscripts, among which are those by Israel 
Alter and Abraham Baer. 38 

^J> | JHJJ]J]]J]] | J]J1 

Example 10. Three Festivals B'rachah containing an entire lower extension pentachord 
(including the third degree) from Ogutsch's manuscript 

Concrete evidence for minor with the lower extension in the Three Festi- 
vals may again be drawn from a motivic similarity to the Ne'ilah music. Un- 
like the Three Festivals B'rachah cadence, which outlines the "frame" of the 
lower extension (its top and two bottom notes), an additional motif in the 
Three Festivals morning prayers features the lower extension in its entirety. 
In the Three Festivals morning services this motif usually opens a phrase, 
particularly continuing phrases (specifically on words such as "vatiten lanu" 
"vehasi'enu" and "vehanchilenu"). In his classes at the Jewish Theological 
Seminary of America, Brian Mayer calls this pattern the "Revia motif" be- 
cause of its similarity to the musical rendition of a High Holiday cantillation 
motif named Revia. 39 The Revia motif is similar in contour and structure to 

37 Fabian Ogutsch, Der Frankfurter Kantor: Sammlungder traditionellen Frank- 
furter synogogalen Gesange (Frankfurt am Main: J. Kauffmann Verlag, 1930), 42. 

38 Israel Alter, The Festival Service: The Complete Musical Liturgy for the Hazzan 
(New York: Cantors Assembly of America, 1967), 27, 29-30 and Baer, Baal Tfillah, 
178-79. We should note that in the Baer manuscript we occasionally encounter the 
same pattern but with a lowered 3 instead of raised 3, although primarily in the 
form of a grace note. I believe, however, that this stems from Baers intent to demon- 
strate a variety of options. The one relating to the minor version (e.g., as found in the 
manuscripts of Friedmann and Lewandowski) does not include a lower extension at 
all (see discussion of Three Festivals "first type," below). In the context of this version 
(pure minor), such cadences do not constitute a case of a lower extension. 

39 Charles Davidson refers to this motif as "Zarka motif" for similar reasons. The 
same motif also appears in Lachmanns cantillation table for Lamentations (Eicha) 
as the cantillation motif for ZakefKatan. Although this case represents a legitimate 
exception, it is important to note that there is a serious methodological flaw in iden- 
tifying cantillation patterns from scripture music in the context of liturgical prayer 
music. Despite this fact, the procedure remains ubiquitous among scholarly and semi- 


some uses of the lower extension in the Ne'ilah service, especially at cadences. 
Compare the motifs from Ne'ilah settings by Adolph Katchko and Joshua 
Ne'eman with the Revia motifs from the Three Festivals in Baer s manuscript 

(see Example ll). 40 



Nei 'lah 


J J W * I 6 


O g i J 3 J J~] J j-j i 

Example 11. Fragments from settings for Ne'ilah by Ne'eman and Katchko, and a Revia 
motif from Baer's setting for the Three Festivals morning service 

The Revia motif can appear in numerous variant forms, which may oc- 
casionally include only an approximation of this motif or a free usage of its 
constituent elements within the lower extension (compare Example 11 to the 
beginning of Example 14, and see the words "erew wowoker w'zohorojim" 
"awosenu Volom woed" and "uwisfillosorn" in Baer s manuscript, 41 as well as 
several examples in the manuscripts of Katchko and Alter). 42 

This does not apply to all cases of Three Festivals music because there are 
several versions for the Three Festivals morning services within the Ashkenazi 
musical tradition. The sources of the canon reflect more than one choice of 
tonal and motivic structure and different relationships between the Revia 
motif, the lower extension, the final B'rachah, and the minor or major tonality. 
In general, there are three types of settings for the Three Festivals morning 

scholarly discussions, in formal and semi-formal insider publications, and in numer- 
ous lectures, presentations and panels at professional conventions. I believe that this 
reflects the continuation of an agenda that can be traced to a pre-Idelsohn narrative, 
subsequently developed and transformed in Idelsohns own work, and still prevalent 
today This phenomenon, including its fundamental weaknesses, is examined in an 
article currently under preparation. 

40 Adolph Katchko, A Thesaurus ofCantorial Liturgy: For the Days of Awe, vol. 1 
(New York: Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion School of Sacred Music, 
1951), 162; Joshua Ne'em&n, NosahLahazan, The Traditional Chant of the Synagogue 
According to the Lithuanian-Jerusalem Musical Tradition: Complete Service for the 
High Holidays, vol. 1 (Jerusalem: Israel Institute for Sacred Music, 1972-73), 258; and 
Baer, Baal Yfillah, 176. 

41 Baer, Baal Tfillah, 178, 176, no. 792, and 179, nos. 800 and 803. 

42 Katchko, A Thesaurus ofCantorial liturgy, vol. 1, 130, 133, 137 and Alter, The 
Festival Service, 29, 31-32. 


section that include these elements. The first type (as found in Friedmanns 
and Lewandowski s manuscripts for example) is in pure minor. It features 
a Three Festivals B'rachah motif and occasionally includes a Revia motif in 
minor. This type does not include a lower extension and contains no elements 
that are derived from a major pentachord or tetrachord. 

The second type includes a mixture of minor and major elements. It maybe 
perceived as a modal mixture containing elements from two or three tonali- 
ties, which creates a blend in which it can be difficult to ascertain the overall 
tonality or modality. 43 Most cases of such mixtures consist of two tonalities, 
major and minor, with the minor tonic located a fifth above the major, as in 
Example 12 by Naumbourg. 44 



*T d d s 

d s 


vJ' l JTTJj H 

nr pp 

Example 12. Minor and major (a fifth below) in Naumbourg s setting for the Three 
Festivals morning services 

43 In Brian Mayer, "Degrees of Uniformity and Variation in the Ashkenazi Musical 
Tradition for the Three Festivals" (DSM dissertation, The Jewish Theological Seminary 
of America, 1998), 138, where I first noticed these examples, the author uses the ex- 
pression "modally ambiguous" when discussing material that reflects this type. In his 
work, Mayers explanation of phenomena similar to the ones explored here is different 
from my theory It should be noted, however, that Mayers work concerns itself only 
with what I have designated here as the first and second "types" It, therefore, does not 
cover the versions and variants that call for a "lower extension" explication. 

44 Samuel Naumbourg, Semiroth Yisrael: Chants Liturgiques des Grandes Fetes 
(Paris: the author, 1847; reprint, New York: Sacred Music Press Out of Print Classical 
Series, 1954), 168. 


Naumbourg s manuscript may even suggest a third tonality or tonicization. 
In addition to the A-minor and D-major tonalities, a hint of a temporary G 
major is created in measures 8-12 of Example 13. 




•V J J s 

J s 








Example 13. A section from Naumbourg s Three Festivals setting with a suggestion of 
an additional tonality (G major) 

Regardless of the number of possible tonalities, the major key is a fifth 
below the minor tonic in all examples of such mixture. This suggests a minor- 
lower extension with the same relationship between the respective tonic and 
finalis. Nevertheless, in most cases of the "second type," the prevailing tonal- 
ity cannot be determined. It is, therefore, not possible to conclude whether 
this is a clear case of minor with a major lower extension or two tonalities 
of equal value. This ambiguity disappears when we consider a third type of 
Three Festivals music. 

This type, which is the clearest demonstration of a lower extension within 
a minor tonality in the Three Festivals, clarifies the second type because the 
minor tonality prevails and the major tonality is contained within a lower 
extension. We can also observe that the settings that depict this type include 
both a Three Festivals B'rachah motif as well as a Revia motif within the lower 
extension. As such they constitute a more forthright expression of what is 
suggested by the tonal relationships in the second type. 45 

45 Alter, The Festival Service, 28. 



^ ^3 


3 3 


1 R 


H^ — T f * m f — 

• ^h* 




-#L -• L * -# L -# L -#>-• -• L -# L 


r /fp r Jl i ^J. >J7TJ i rJ J J ,iJ7] 

^'Cj-J LUf l eif r ^B^ J-N'Jj II 

Example 14. "Third type" Three Festivals version from Alter s manuscript 

As in the case of the different versions and variants of the Ne'ilah pattern, 
further exploration of possible geographical or historical-evolutionary fac- 
tors could be productive. An initial perception may indicate a tendency of 
later sources to feature the third type. Conversely, this type also seems to be 
more prevalent among the East European and American sources as well as 
the common practice in the American synagogue, 46 hence the possibility of 
both historical and geographical factors. Nevertheless, as in the case of the 
Ne'ilah versions, this contention is still a somewhat crude hypothesis that 
requires further exploration. 

Another expression of a lower extension in the Three Festivals morning 
services is found in Example 15 at the end of the K'dushah on the phrase 

"ledor vador nagid godlecha! ' 47 

L' -dor wo-dor nag- gid god - le-cho u-P ne-zachn'-zo chim k' dusch- schos'-cho nak- 


r I p | J } i p J |§ ii 


disch w'-schiw-cha-cho e-lo-he -nu mip - pi-nu lo ja-musch 1'o-lom wo - ed 

Example 15. End of the Kedushah ("Ledor Vador") from Baer's manuscript 

46 For a discussion of the East European influence on American synagogue music 
see Tarsi, "Observations on Practices oiNusach in America," 180-97. 

47 Baer, Baal T'fillah, 1 76, n. 789. 


Other Liturgical Sections in Minor with a Lower Extension 

Example 16 illustrates another case of the lower extension, which is found in 
the P'sukey D'zirnrah of the High Holiday morning prayers (beginning with 
the words "baruch she'amar"). There is no evidence here of afinalis in the 
same sense as in the previous examples. Nevertheless, the section features a 
Revia motif that is identical to its form in the Three Festivals and contained 
within a lower extension pentachord. The minor tonality is clearly established 
with a strong cadence at the end of the pattern and is not contradicted by any 
pattern prior to that. Interestingly, the opening motif of the pattern spells 
out the three notes from the Three Festivals B'rachah cadence in an unfold- 
ing ascent. 

I h-mr i/ Qj ^fJ np rns^ 

Ba-ruchshe-a-mar ve-ha ya ha-o- lam_ ba-ruch hu ba-rucho-se ve-re 

3 _ . 3 

I| r n .■■■■ j=£ m }. n jm^ 


ba - ruch chai la - ad ve - ka- yam_ la - ne - tsach 


JT71J» i rra #^ 

-ruch a - ta a-do-nai me-lechme-hu- lal_ 

ba-tish-ba chot.. 

Example 16. Fragment from the preliminary section of the High Holidays morning 
service ('Baruch She amar") 

Other instances, in the High Holiday evening services, suggest a similar 
phenomenon. In the Sulzer setting for the High Holiday evening version of 
the Piyyut titled "Yigdal" the Three Festivals B'rachah motif appears within 
a minor key. 48 




i J-JiiA j i j Lr^ ^ 



Jig-dal e-lo-himchaj we-jisch-tab - bach nim-zow'-en - es el m' zi - u - so 

Example 17. "Yigdal" from Sulzer s manuscript 

This example alone does not prove that the motif is also a case of the lower 
extension, although in view of the previous example we may suggest that it 
is implied. Baer s setting for the same liturgical poem, however, consists of 
a similar melody that does include a major 3 and depicts a complete lower 

48 Salomon Sulzer, ed. Schir Zion: Gesdngefur den israelitischen Gottesdienst, 2 
vols. (Leipzig: M. W. Kauffmann, 1905, revised version of the first edition by Joseph 
Sulzer, Vienna, ca. 1838), no. 296. 


extension. 49 Later in Baer s manuscript a similar pattern is applied to a text 
that appears in the morning service. This is parallel to where the Three Fes- 
tivals B'rachah motif appears in Sulzers setting and a full lower-extension 
pentachord unfolds (Example 18a). 50 

■hi TfJ I 




Kul- lorn a - hu - wim kul - lorn b' - ru - rim 

Example 18a, From Baer's setting for the High Holidays morning service 

The same pattern appears during an early part of the High Holiday morning 
service in Maier Levi s manuscript (Example 18b). 51 Levi s variant, too, shows 
a clear case of the lower extension. 

OU JP ^ & 



ha - me - lech ham- ro 

le - va - do 

Example 18b, Segment from the early part of the High Holidays service from Levi's 

In the last three examples a minor tonality is established before introducing 
a lower-extension element, whereas in some settings for "charnolal ma'asecha',' 
which appear much later in the High Holiday additional morning service 
(Musaf), a lower-extension Revia motif begins the section. In Example 19, a 
clear minor cadence occurs only at the end of the segment. 52 Similar cases 
can be found in Heller s manuscript as well as those of Elieser Gerovitsch 
and Todros Greenberg. 53 These examples within the minor tonality also 
feature the ahavah rabbah mode whose tonic is located a fourth below the 
minor tonic. The symbiotic attachment of ahavah rabbah to the harmonic 

49 Baer, Baal T'fillah, no. 989. As another manifestation of the lower-extension 
phenomenon, this setting is in A minor, yet the key signature contains F#, the final 
cadence is in D major, and it ends on the finalis of the lower extension. 

50 Ibid. no. 1029. 

51 Maier Levi, Esslingen Machzor (Esslingen, ca. 1845), 32. 

52 This example is taken from materials prepared by Cantor Max Wohlberg as 
the core of a curriculum for the training of cantors, which he established at the Jew- 
ish Theological Seminary in New York in 1952. For a more detailed discussion of this 
unique source see Tarsi, "Observations on Practices ofNusach in America," 211-12 n. 

53 Heller, Kol T'hilloh, 150; Elieser Gerovitsch, Shire Tefillah: Synagogen-Gesange 
fur cantor und gemischten Chor (Rostov am Don: S. A. Brodsky, 1897), 20-21; Todros 

Greenberg, T'filot Todros, ed. Sholom Kalib (New York: Cantors Assembly, 1978), 


minor a fourth above it, which I name "equivalent minor" is beyond the 
scope of this discussion. 54 What pertains to our subject is that they share the 
same note collection, so that the notes oiahavah rabbah and its "equivalent 
minor" are the same; only the tonics differ. Ahavah rabbah on E, for example, 
is "equivalent" to A harmonic minor as both scales comprise the same notes. This 
symbiosis is prevalently expressed in various forms throughout the repertoire. Seen 
in this light, one musical characteristic oiahavah rabbah also constitutes a case of 
the lower extension. 

| J n J- J n j) J jl H Lr « J i pf 




J' Ln r J> 

hjjt r 

g * $ 



Example 19. Segment from the additional High Holidays morning service from the 
"Wohlberg materials" 

What is colloquially referred to in some professional cantorial circles as the 
"Rumania motif" 55 relates to a pattern within ahavah rabbah in which a pre- 
concluding phrase may begin with a motif based on a major scale pentachord 
whose tonic is the lower 7 of the ahavah rabbah scale. In Examples 20a and 
20b, in ahavah rabbah on E, such a motif would consist of notes borrowed 
from the scale of D Major. The "Rumania motif" therefore constitutes a lower 
extension of the ahavah rabbah "equivalent minor." 

54 For an initial discussion of this phenomenon see Tarsi, "Tonality and Motivic 
Interrelationships in the Performance Practice ofNusach',' 6-9. 

55 This colloquialism is used primarily within the professional circles that in one 
way or another are connected to the Jewish Theological Seminary Charles Davidson 
created the expression "Rumania motif" in order to help cantorial students memorize 
it, using a segment from the song "Rumania, Rumania" by Aaron Lebedeff. 


Ahavah Rabbah 

Lower 7 "Rumania" pentachord 

o <> 


\\ <> ° ° 

o <> 


V «h)iJ r- j j g j> l j j t J J j j. I 

f ^ 

Example 20a. "Rumania motif" pentachord in relation to the ahavah rabbah scale and 
as reflected in a fragment from Weisser s manuscript 


o # c 

o <> 



Example 20b. "Rumania motif" pentachord as a lower extension of the "equivalent 
minor" in ahavah rabbah 

Lower Extension and Plagal Modes 

Since both lower extensions and plagal modes relate to musical occurrences 
that lie below a key- reference tone, 56 the concept of plagal modes may appear 
relevant to the subject of the lower extension. Nevertheless, although related 
to a similar phenomenon, the two are mutually exclusive. As in other terms 
and definitions borrowed from church music, the concept of plagal modes 
should be approached with caution, paying attention to its original meaning. 57 

56 Being the finalis in the case of the plagal church modes and the tonic in the 
lower extension, there is no term to indicate this function in both cases, hence my 
somewhat inadequate made-up expression "key-reference tone." This, in fact, is at the 
core of one of the differences between the two cases (see Example 21). 

57 Cases within the repertoire of Ashkenazi prayer music that can be shown to 
resemble plagal modes in the original sense of the term are rare. The study that uses 
this term the most in the context of Jewish prayer music is Levines Synagogue Song in 
America. From an examination of all the contexts in which the term is used in Levines 
work, I could only conclude that it refers in general to any musical material or occur- 
rence that takes place below the tonic. One other passing allusion to it is Daliah Cohens 
suggestion that some Jewish songs may be perceived as being in "hypo harmonic 
minor" in Shema Veyeda: Shel Hamarkivim Hamusikalim (Jerusalem: Akademon, 
Beit Hahotsaah Shel Histadrut Hastudentim, 1979), 43, 153. 1 believe, however, that 


There are several fundamental differences between the church plagal modes 
and the lower extension, which make the term plagal mode inappropriate 
in this case. 58 The most important difference between scales with lower 
extensions and plagal modes is that the latter are primarily an expression of 
a difference in ambitus from their respective authentic modes. As such, the 
notes included in each pair of authentic and plagal modes are the same, and 
the notes in the lower tetrachord of the plagal mode are identical to those of 
the upper tetrachord in the authentic. In the case of a lower extension the 
notes above the tonic 59 and the ones below it constitute different pentachords 
that belong in different scales. 60 Another significant difference is that the 
lower end of the ambitus in plagal modes is structurally set a fourth below 
the finalis 61 whereas the lowest structural note of the lower extension is a 
fifth below the tonic. 62 

although Cohens view is technically correct, the case it mentions is part of a much 
larger phenomenon, part of which I have briefly touched upon in the discussion of 
ahavah rabbah and "equivalent minor." 

58 There are in fact a few places in Ashkenazi prayer music in which some aspects 
of plagal modes may be present. But even if technically applicable in terms of ambitus 
description, the term does not suit this material as it does the church modal system, 
nor does its application provide any meaningful insight for Ashkenazi prayer music. 
The pattern for the Shabbat Minchah is in minor and the combination of motifs and 
free singing constitutes a collection of musical phrases whose ambitus is from a fourth 
below the tonic to about a fifth above it. A similar case is the Lithuanian-American 
version of the first section of the Friday night service, "Stima Uvirchoteha" (see Tarsi, 
"Observations on Practices oiNusach in America," examples 5a, 5b, and 6). 

59 For the sake of comparison I must momentarily set aside the definition of finalis 
in Jewish music and refer to the finalis in the plagal church modes as the equivalent 
of the tonic in the case of the lower extension, at least so far as their scale location is 
concerned (see Example 21). 

60 The closest approximation of such a phenomenon outside of Jewish music is 
the notion of mixed modes or mixed tones as discussed by theorists such as Aiguino, 
Marchetto, Tinctoris, Vicentino, Zarlino, and others. See for example, Johannes Tinc- 
toris, "Tonus mixtus" and "Tonus commixtus" in Ter minor um Musicae Diffinitorium 
(ca. 1475); Johannes Tinctoris, De Natura et Proprietate Tonorum (Concerning the 
Nature and Propriety of Tones), trans. Albert Seay, (Colorado Springs: Colorado College 
Music Press, 1967), 15-17, 19-20, 24-25; and Gioseffo Zarlino, Istitutioni harmoniche 
(Venice, 1558), 385-86. I am grateful to Ryan McClelland for drawing my attention 
to the relevance of this phenomenon and to Frans Wiering of Utrecht University for 
reference assistance. 

61 Johner, A New School of Gregorian Chant, 52. 

62 This is partially related to Curt Sachs's looser definition of plagal modes as the 


Although some elements of Gregorian chant may be detected in Ashkenazi 
prayer music, such instances (e.g., Akdamut, see Example 1) are extremely 
rare. When they do appear, they usually are transformed into an entirely 
new and perhaps sui generis pattern. In this respect, one of the differences 
between plagal and authentic modes in church music is in the location of the 
recitation tone (the fifth in authentic modes and mainly the third in plagal 
modes). 63 In contrast, a significant portion of Ashkenazi prayer music does 
not designate specific recitation tones at all while another portion includes 
them on several scale degrees. Some prayer modes feature them on an as- 
signed scale degree (but not always 5). There is no parallel to plagal church 
modes in which the recitation tone within the same mode changes because 
of a change in the mode s ambitus. Moreover, most cases of a lower extension 
have no specific recitation tone at all. 

The differences regarding recitation tones provide further evidence that 
plagal modes and scales with the lower extension belong to different genres. 
This is directly related to the other area of difference— the mixture of tonal 
and modal elements in the scales with the lower extension, which by defini- 
tion cannot be part of the plagal modes. An immediate consequence of this 
is, of course, the presence of both a tonic and & finalis in the former. The note 
in scales with the lower extension that is equivalent to the finalis in plagal 
church modes is the tonic, which has a fundamentally different function. By 
the same comparison, the note that is equivalent to the lower marker of the 
ambitus of the plagal modes is the finalis in the cases of the lower extension. 
Thus while in plagal modes the ambitus begins below the finalis, in scales 
with lower extensions the finalis is at the lowest end of the ambitus. 

Example 21. Structural scalar differences between plagal modes and scales with lower 

Indeed, searching for similarities between church music and the Ashkenazi 
tradition of prayer music may generate more confusion than constructive in- 

combination of a pentachord on top of a tetrachord as opposed to authentic modes, 
which consist of a tetrachord on top of a pentachord (Curt Sachs, The Rise of Music 
in the Ancient World (New York: Norton, 1943, 65). Thus, even by this definition, the 
lower extension cases do not fall under this category because the (artificially synthe- 
sized) scale they reflect consists of two pentachords, and each pentachord marks the 
frame of a different class of designated musical occurrences. 
63 Johner, A New School of Gregorian Chanty 52. 




low end 


Minor with 
lower extension 





sight. Describing the scale with the lower extension as a unique phenomenon, 
separate and distinct from plagal modes, is not only clearly justified by the 
former s unique traits as demonstrated here. It is also one more case in which 
identifying areas of overlap as well as drawing boundaries and describing dif- 
ferences between church music and Ashkenazi prayer music are necessary 
to further clarify and deepen our understanding of this repertory. 

Boaz Tarsi holds a doctorate from Cornell University, and is an associate professor 
at the H. L. Miller Cantorial School and the College of Jewish Music at JTS. His 
orchestral and choral compositions have been performed, recorded and broadcast 
throughout the United States, Europe and Israel He has published and read in- 
ternationally on the theory of Jewish Sacred Music and on the composers Arnold 
Schoenberg and George Rochberg. His most recent article for the Journal of Syna- 
gogue Music, "Congregational Singing as a Norm of Performance within the Modal 
Framework of Ashkenazi Liturgical Music" appeared in the Fall 200S issue. This 
article is reprinted with permission from the Indiana Theory Review, vol. 23. 


The Hidden Subdivisions of S'lihot 

by Joseph A. Levine 

S'lihot Defined 

Among liturgical poems (piyyutim) that are inserted within the body of statu- 
tory prayer (matbei a 1 ) on special occasions, the penitential ones known as 
slihot (from s'lihah or "forgiveness") are recited only on fast days. Before the 
age of printing, choice and number of both piyyutim and slihot was left to the 
hazzan who added and changed according to the spirit of the times and the 
preference of local custom. 2 Slihot follow the literary format of all piyyutim in 
first extolling God as the just and eternal Sovereign over all, but they contrast 
that with our temporality and moral weaknesses that lead to transgression 
against God and humankind. Slihot open an avenue of absolution for those 
transgressions and of rapprochement with God. That is true especially on Yom 
Kippur, when an entire section of Forgiveness prayers— Seder Slihot 3 — ap- 
pears in all five services: Ma ariv; Shaharit; Musaf; Minhah; and Nellah. 

The first slihot of identifiable attribution were not poetic but biblical quotes 4 
seeking atonement for Israels trespasses. They often used divine forgiveness 
of our ancestors' misdeeds as precedent for God to overlook our wrongdoings 
as well. The biblical verses had long been part of private penitential prayer. 5 
During the Second Temple era, people would repeat short scriptural phrases 
that they knew by heart: 

1 The "coin" of blessings minted by our sages, tractate B'rakhot: JT 9b; BT 40a. 

2 A. M. Habermann. Al HaT'fillah (Lod: Habermann Institute), 1987: 52. Ezra 
Fleischer. ShiratHaKodeshHa-IvritBi-Y'meiHaBeinayim (Jerusalem: Keter), 1975: 72; 
Hayyim Kieval, The High Holy Days, David Golinkin & Monique Sussman Goldberg, 
eds. (Jerusalem: Schechter Institute), 2004: 252, citing the Italian Mahzor B 'nei Roma 
& the Yemenite prayerbook, the Tikhlal. 

3 Wilhelm Bacher, Meyer Seligsohn, Cyrus Adler & Francis L. Cohen, eds. Jewish 
Encyclopedia (New York: Funk & Wagnalls), 1905, s.v. "Selihah," citing Tanna de-Vei 
Eliyahu Zuta, chapter 23, end. 

4 Kieval, The High Holy Days, 2004: 242, citing the listing of Psalm 130 ("From 
the depths I call upon You") as part of the old Palestinian liturgy for fast days (Mishnah 
Ta'anit, 2.3). 

5 Habermann, Al Ha-T'fillah, 1987: 51. Hayyim Leshem, Shabbat u-Moadei 
Yisrael, Vol. I (Tel Aviv: Niv), 1965: 108-111, notes the mention of "s'lihah" or "slihot" 
a dozen times in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Additionally, Nehemiah 9: 17b {Eloah slihot, 
hanun V-rahum, erekh apayim v'-rav hesed, after Exodus 34: 6) may have prompted 
universal recitation of that text during penitential worship. 


Hatanu lakh 

We have sinned before You, (Judges 10: 10); 

Hatanu heevinu V-hirshanu 

We have sinned, and caused perversion and wickedness, 

(First Chronicles 6: 37); 

Hatanu v'-avinu V-hirshanu u-maradnu v'-sor mi-mitsvotekha 

We have sinned, caused perversion and wickedness, rebelled and strayed 
from Your commandments and precepts (Daniel 9: 5). 

The Jerusalem Talmud in fact provides the following s'lihah for an individual 
to recite on Yom Kippur: 

My Master, I have sinned, done evil and taken a wrong path. I have now 
turned back from that wayward path and no longer do what I formerly did. 
May it be Your will, my God, to grant atonement for all my transgressions, 
to pardon me for all my iniquities and to forgive me for all my sins (JT 
Yoma, 45c.) 

From the 5 th century onwards, collective slihot earned a permanent place 
in the hearts of worshipers. Notwithstanding their popularity, the insertion 
of any type of piyyut within statutory blessings often aroused rabbinic op- 
position, 6 which led to constant tension between local custom (minhag) and 
Jewish law (halakhah). One rabbinic compromise was to move piyyut out of 
matbei a sections like the Shma and its Blessings, and into neutral parts of 
the service. 7 Seder S'lihah represented one such neutral part. 

Over time, the distance between piyyut and matbeia narrowed consider- 
ably; many current fixtures of the liturgy that began as optional — even rabbini- 
cally unacceptable — insertions such as Kol Nidre (We renounce all inadvertent 
vows to God) and U-N'taneh Tokef ( We recount the Day s awesome holiness), 
eventually became obligatory prayers. Piyyut and matbeia may thus be seen 
as way stations along a continuum; what one generation considers kavva- 

6 On grounds that they "constituted a disruption of the proper continuity and 
coherence of the service"; Eli Munk, The World of Prayer, Vol II, Sabbath and Festivals, 
Gertrude Hirschler, tr. (New York: Philipp Feldheim), 1963: 106. Among others who 
objected were: Moses Maimonides; David Abudarham; Joseph Albo; Jacob ben Asher; 
Judah Halevi; Abraham Ibn Ezra; Jacob Emden; and David Kimhi. 

7 Ruth Langer, To Worship God Properly— Tensions between Liturgical Custom 
and Halakhah in Judaism (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press), 1998: 171. 


nah — devotional material above and beyond obligatory requirements — the 
next generation regards as keva (fixed liturgical formulations). 8 

The Categories of Piyyutim 

Piyyutim generally fall into four main categories, 9 "each poem or group of 
poems in the sequence leading up to a prescribed station or destination in 
the liturgy:" 10 

Ma'aravot (from Maariv "Evening service"— in blessings that surround the 
Shma of Maariv); 

Yots'rot (from Yotseir "Creator of Heavenly Luminaries"— in blessings that 
accompany the Shma of Shaharit); 

K'rovot (from hazzana d'-kareiv 11 "the cantor who approaches" [the prayer 
lectern] — in the first three or four blessings of the Amidah for Shaharit, 
Musaf, Minhah and Ne'ilah — consisting of up to ten parts); and 

S'lihot (a special penitential section recited on fast days after the Amidah of 
Shaharit and Minhah, and on Yom Kippur at every service). 

Maaravot subdivide into Piyyutim that appear just before the following 
blessing "closures" (hatimot): 12 

Ha-Ma'ariv Aravim ("Bringer of Evening"); 
OheivAmo Yisrael ("Who Loves His People Israel"); 
Mi Kamokha ("None Like You"); 
Adonai Yimlokh ("God Reigns Forever"); 
Ga'al Yisrael ("Israels Redeemer"); and 
Haporeis Sukkat Shalom ("Spreader of Peace"). 

8 After Jakob Petuchowsky Understanding Jewish Prayer (New York: Ktav), 

9 While many more categories appeared — and disappeared — at different periods, 
a case can be made for subsuming the types that still survive, within the "main" head- 
ings listed here, along with their subdivisions. Kinnot, for example, are a form of s'lihot 
specific to the fast of Tishah BAv; piyyutim added to the Nishmat prayer that concludes 
P sukei D'-Zimra on holy days and those recited in honor of a New Month — as well as 
those written for Birkat HaMazon , the Haggadah and Hoshanot — are largely forgotten 

10 T. Carmi, ed., The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse (NY: Penguin), 1981: 19. 

11 Derived from Midrash T'hillim on Ps. 19. 

12 Marcus Jastrow. Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud Babli, Yerushalmi, and 
Midrashic Literature (NY: The Judaica Press), 1996: 513; Mishnah Psahim, 10. 6. 


Yots rot subdivide into: 

Yotser ("Creator of Light"); 

Of an ("Heavenly Creatures"); 

Me'orah ("Celestial Luminaries"); 

Ahavah ("Abounding Love"); 

Zulat ("Incomparable God"); 

Mi Kamokha ("None Like You"); 

Adonai Malkeinu ("God Our Sovereign"); and 

G'ulah ("Redemption"). 

iCrovot subdivide into: 

R'shut ("Permission"); 

Magein ("Protector"); 

M'-hayyeh ("Resurrector"); 

M'-shulash ("Thrice-Sanctified"); 

Atah Kadosh ("You Are Holy"); 

EilNa ("By Your Divine Leave"); and 

Silluk ("Ascension" [to the ICdushah or Sanctification]). 13 

Since the slihot that have been written and continue to be written out- 
strip in number all other piyyut types combined, 14 IVe based this study on 
Israeli scholar Ezra Fleischer s premise: "The 'hierarchy' of piyyut forms in 
their classical post-talmudic period is not proven, but logical." 15 Accordingly, 
unlike the proverbial sightless individuals who grasp an elephant s slithery 
tail and think its a snake — or its stumpy leg and imagine its a tree — I believe 
it more prudent to step back in order to give readers a broader perspective 
of penitential liturgical insertions as a whole. 

The Categories of S'lihot 

Its true that— as a piyyut category— s'lihot seem to have defied comprehensive 
categorization. Yet, in the absence of a formal hierarchy, various authorities 

13 The above order of piyyutim is based upon Fleischer, Shirat HaKodesh, 1975: 
137-26, and Ismar Elbogen, HaT'fillah B'-Yisrael (Leipzig, 1913), translated from the 
German by Yehoshua Amir (Tel-Aviv: Dvir), 1972: 158-161 and into English by Ray- 
mond Scheindlin (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society), 1993. 

14 Kieval, The High Holy Days, 2004: 24. 

15 Fleischer, Shirat HaKodesh, 1975: 67 


have posited the logical existence of subdivisions within Seder Slihah, each 
scholar adding another piece to the puzzle. 

"We distinguish slihot by the locations that are reserved for them" posits 
Joseph Bloch... "if they serve as introits they are called P'tihah." 16 Adolph 
Coblenz 17 sees slihot as "expressive of the accompanying moods of penitence, 
of supplication and of hope ," moods which I have shown elsewhere 18 to be ex- 
pressed through the unique music of their equivalent slihah genres — Viddui, 
Thinnah and Nehamah — Confession, Supplication and Reconciliation. In 
this assertion I second Abraham Idelsohn: "The order of Slihot was and con- 
tinues to be: confession (Viddui); begging forgiveness (Slihah u-Thinnah); 
and words of consolation (Divrei Nehamah)." 19 Ezra Fleischer mentions a 
"framework for slihot, based on very ancient principles... which included 
Viddui and closed with Tahanun." 20 Hayyim Kieval speaks of "introductory 
prayers [P'tihot],... confession of sins,... petitions for divine grace and aid 
in time of stress," 21 in that order. The Jewish Encyclopedia (1905) entry on 
"Selichah" substantiates my claim that Vidduyim are a form of slihot— and 
not a separate entity. 22 That is important because a recent mahzor mislabeled 
Seder Slihah as "Slihah ^-Vidui" — Forgiveness and Confession — as if they 
belonged to two distinct piyyut categories. 23 

Nevertheless, for every mislabeling, one can cite a proper labeling as coun- 
terbalance. In the succinct manner of medieval mahzorim, Mahzor Vitry 24 
gives only the word "Viddui" after summing up the Amidah of Ma ariv for Yom 
Kippur eve, signaling that the Seder Slihah to follow will open with confes- 

16 Joseph Bloch, ed., Sha'arei T'fillah (Paris: Communaute de la Victoire, 1924), 
1983 edition, Introduction: LIII. 

17 Preface to Selichothfor the First Day, Joseph Weinstein & Hyman Saye, eds. 
(Baltimore: Chizuk Amuno Congregation), 1940: 3. 

18 Joseph A. Levine, "The Three-Part Selicha Mode," Journal of Synagogue Music, 
Vol 28, No. 1, Fall/Winter 2001: 3-10. 

19 Abraham Zvi Idelsohn. Tol'dotha-N'ginah ha-Ivrit (Tel-Aviv: Dvir), 1924: 267; 
the present writers translation. 

20 Fleischer, Shirat HaKodesh, 1975: 408. 

21 Kieval, The High Holy Days, 2004: 245. 

22 Bacher et al, The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1905, s.v. "Selihah" — Earliest Public 
Selihot, Among Sephar dim and Ashkenazim, Divergence in Rituals. 

23 Evening Service for Yom Kippur, Preliminary Edition, Edward Feld, ed. (New 
York: The Rabbinical Assembly), 2005: 22. 

24 Simon Hurvitz, ed., after the British Museum MS (Berlin 1893; Jerusalem: 
Aleph), 1063. Kieval, The High Holy Days, 2004: 245. 


sion. The Orthodox ArtScroll Siddur 25 does likewise before giving instructions 
for "reciting the confessional before Tahanun" after the Weekday Amidah 
of Shaharit. It opens this free-standing Slihah unit with Viddui (Asharnnu, 
"we have sinned"), continues with T'hinnah (Adonai, Adonai, The Thirteen 
Attributes of God s Mercy) and closes it with Nehamah (KiAtah, Adonai, tov 
v'-salah; (For You are Good and Forgiving"). 

Vidduyim are not bunched exclusively at the end of a Slihah section, nor 
do they consist of only the two well-known texts that list specific types of 
sin, Asharnnu and Al Heit 26 Instead, most Vidduyim refer to sin in general 
terms only. Just so, Tehinnot do not limit themselves to the prescribed bibli- 
cal formula Adonai, Adonai, Eil Rahurn v'-Hanun, but rely on the richness 
and diversity of piyyutistic slihot in pleading for divine mercy. Nehamot 
need not necessarily reference the verb N-H-M ("to comfort"); there exist 
so many alternative scriptural promises of God s willingness to overlook our 
missteps. Nor is the fairly common insertion of P'tihot — introductory para- 
graphs—merely a hypothetical attempt to create order where none prevails. 
The fact is that all four genres— P'tihot, Vidduyim, T'hinnot and Nehamot 
(with P'tihot remaining optional) — do combine to form identifiable subdivi- 
sions within the Seder Slihah of every tradition whose mahzor, siddur or 
anthology I have examined. 

The objective is and always has been to evoke in worshipers a feeling that 
all is not lost. No matter how dire the circumstances that may have led to our 
blaming our own egregious behavior as direct cause of a specific communal— 
or national — calamity, God stands ready to extend a hand to sinners: Atah 
notein yad I'fosh'im. 27 1 agree with Ezra Fleischer that there is logic to both 
the content and placement of piyyut in our liturgy, including the penitential 
poems known as slihot. If every subdivision within Seder Slihah did not 
include a Nehamah, for example, we would have had to invent the genre; 
of what use is all our breast-beating — without the anticipation of expiation 
from guilt? 

As already mentioned, I am not the first observer who has managed to 
discern boundaries and sort out priorities within the vast body of available 
slihot. Abraham Idelsohn noted that "forgiveness presupposes confession." 28 

25 Nosson Scherman, ed., The Complete ArtScroll Siddur (Brooklyn, NY: Meso- 
rah), 1984: 119a. 

26 Found in Nosson Scherman, ed., The Complete ArtScroll Machzor for Yom 
Kippur (Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah), 1986: 130; 132. 

27 Ibid, page 752. 

28 Idelsohn, Jewish Liturgy, 1932: 43. 


That is probably why Avinu Malkeinu, the litany of forty-four 29 invocations 
recited by cantor and congregation line by line following the Amidah on fast 
days, begins with a confession: hatanu I'-fanekha ("Our Father, our King! We 
have sinned before You"). Only afterwards does it take the liberty of offering 
supplications: "erase all evil decrees; erase all record of our guilt; remember 
us for pardon, etc." 30 

Elie Munk supports that position with BT Yoma, 87b: "Mar Zutra taught 
that if a person said, 'Truly, we have sinned,' no more is necessary.'" To that 
he adds, based on the passage in Deuteronomy describing repentance as a 
pre-requisite for prayer (30: 10-14), "first comes the admission that one has 
sinned b'-fikha [through verbal utterance] uvi-l'vav'kha [through service of 
the heart]." 31 Ismar Elbogen concurred, and logically added a second link to 
the slihah-subdivision chain: "There was no reason to beg forgiveness from 
sin unless it was preceded by Viddui... and requests for help flowed naturally 
from the Viddui... these are called Thinnot". 32 

Hayyim Kieval agreed with Idelsohn, Munk and Elbogen: "Slihot passages 
from the Bible were provided with a liturgical framework consisting — among 
other types — of P'tihah, Viddui and Thinnah, the admission of sins [being an] 
indispensable prerequisite... to the supplications for Divine forgiveness." 33 This 
statement omits what I consider the last essential part of a slihah unit— the 
Nehamah — "a standard concluding motif in rabbinic literature, especially 
midrash." 34 Indeed, the Rabbinic Kaddish (Kaddish D'-Rabbanan) that served 
as a congregational response to the conclusion of public Torah exposition 
during the Talmudic period, developed as a "consolation" over the temporary 
silencing of Gods words. 35 

Kieval does apply the term Nehamah to prophetic verses in the Malkhuyot 
section of the Rosh HaShanah Musaf service, "because they express the 
consolation — nehamah — which the triumph of Gods Kingship will bring to 

29 In Orthodox practice; ArtScroll Machzor for Yom Kippur, p. 144. 

30 Abraham Millgram. Jewish Worship (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication 
Society), 1971: 234. 

31 Munk, The World of Prayer, Vol. II, 1963: 239; 210, citing Maharil and Mateh 
Moshe§ 818. 

32 Elbogen, HaTfillah BeYisrael, 1972: 166-167. 

33 Kieval, The High Holy Days, 2004: 245-246; 258. 

34 Ruth Langer, personal communication to the writer, August, 2005. 

35 Masekhet Sof'rim, 19: 12; Sifrei to Deuteronomy 32: 3; Rashi on BT Sotah, 


Israel" 36 The fact that these prophetic verses express consolation is the same 
reason why Nehamot verses from throughout the Tanakh are appended to 
Vidduyim and Thinnot in the Slihot liturgy, and why the following coda was 
later appended to the Rabbanan / Readers / Mourners Kaddish: 

Oseh shalom bimromav, Hu ya'aseh shalom aleinu 

The One Who brings harmony on high will surely 
bring harmony to us as well 37 

The Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds 38 both stress that the early 
Prophets habitually closed their forebodings of doom with words of consola- 
tion; the Yerushalmi calls them divrei nehamah, the Bavli refers to them as 
divrei tanhumim. The Glory Hymns that close Sabbath and Festival services 
today — Ein Keiloheinu, Aleinu, An im Zemirot and Adon Olam 39 — perform 
the same liturgical function. How much more so are Nehamot needed on 
Yom Kippur! That is why Mahzor Vitry ends its Seder Slihah on Kol Nidrei 
night with Oseh shalom bimromav^ the most widely used nehamah of all, 
hardly recognized as such because it was hidden in plain view. 

S'lihot Subdivisions Examined in Detail 

Based upon the above incomplete attempts at sequencing penitential piyyutim, 
it is my contention that, determined by their content and liturgical function, 
four main genres of slihot have combined over time to form identifiable sub- 
divisions — independent units that appear by themselves — within the larger 
Seder Slihah on fast days in general and on Yom Kippur in particular. Here 
are some of the names by which the four slihah genres have been known: 

36 Kieval, The High Holy Days, 2004: 222, n. 76. 

37 We know that Oseh Shalom came later because it is composed in Hebrew, 
whereas the Kaddish proper is composed in the Aramaic vernacular spoken earlier in 
Erets Yisrael. 

38 JT B'rakhot, 8d; BT B'rakhot, 31a. 

39 Found in Philip Bimh&am, ed., Daily Prayer Book (New York: Hebrew Publish- 
ing Co.), 1949: 407; 413; 415; 423. 

40 Hurvitz, Mahzor Vitry, 1963: 391. 


P'tihah ("opening")— includes Mukkadimah or Hakdamah ("introduction"), 41 
ShVahim or Hoda'ah 42 ("praises" or "acknowledgement"), and either 
P'sukim Shel Rahamim 43 ("verses invoking God s mercy," in Hebrew) or 
P'sukei D'-Rahamei 44 ("verses invoking God s mercy," in Aramaic). 

Viddui ("confession")— includes Hatanu 45 ("we have sinned," the word with 
which its refrain begins, a kind of poetic confession that often served 
in place of Viddui) and Hata'einu, 46 a variant of the preceding type, its 
refrain beginning with the word hataeinu ("our sins"); 

T'hinnah ("supplication") or Tahanun 47 ("entreaty")— includes S'lihah 48 (plea 
for "forgiveness"), Tokhahah 49 ("admonition"), Bakkashah 50 ("petition"); 
Litaniyah 51 ("litany"), Z'-akah 52 ("cry") and Atirah 53 ("plea"); 

Nehamah ("comfort," consolation," "reconciliation," "reconsideration") 54 — 
includes P'sukei D'-Rahamei 55 ("verses invoking God's mercy) and either 
Divrei Nehamah or Divrei Tanhumim ("words of consolation"). 

Part of the confusion over slihot terminology arises from the fact that all 
the above-listed genres were given different names in various communities — 
and sometimes, the same name for different genres! The Seder of Amram 
Gaon refers to s'lihot in general as P'sukei Ritsui S'lihah ("verses invoking 

41 Fleischer, Shirat HaKodesh, 1975: 410; Leon J. Weinberger, Romaniote Peni- 
tential Poetry (New York: American Academy for Jewish Research), 1980: 5; the latter 
referring to the Greek-speaking Jews of the Byzantine Empire. 

42 Leon Nemoy, s.v. "Karaites," Encyclopedia Judaica (Jerusalem: Keter), 1972, 10: 

43 Hurvitz, Mahzor Vitry, 1963: 345. 

44 Weinberger, Romaniote Penitential Poetry, 1980: 5. 

45 Fleischer, Shirat HaKodesh, 1975: 203; Bacher et 3.1, Jewish Encyclopedia, 
1903, s.v. "Selichah": Development ofSelichot. 

46 Leket Piyyutei Slihot Me-eit Payytanei Ashkenaz V'-Tsorfat, from a MS 
of Daniel Goldschmidt (after Zunz), edited by Avraham Fraenkel (Jerusalem: 
M'kitsei Nirdam), 1993: 13.x 

47 Weinberger, Romaniote Penitential Poetry, 1980: 45. 

48 Idem. 

49 Ibid, page 34. 

50 Ibid, page 45. 

51 Ibid, page 11. 

52 Seider Siftei Rnanot (Tripoli: n. p.), 1925: 4. 

53 Bacher et al, Jewish Encyclopedia, 1905, s.v. "Selihah": Supplication. 

54 Jastrow, Dictionary of the Targumim, 1996: 895; all four readings of the verb 
N-H-M are valid. 

55 Yaakov Levi, ed., Seder ha-S'lihot k'-Fi Minhagei ha-Sefardim (Jerusalem: Yad 
ha-Rav Nissim), 1995: 40 


Gods willingness to forgive"), whereas the Karaite liturgy terms them P'sukei 
T'shuvah ("verses of penitence"). Saadyah Gaons Siddur designates them 
as Rahamaniyot ("mercies"), while the Baalei Tosafot preferred P'sukei D'- 
Rahamei for all genres of slihot. 56 That last designation, Aramaic for Mahzor 
Vitry's P'sukim shel Rahamim, would seem to obliterate the line between 
P'tihot and Nehamot, a conclusion easily reached if we were to judge by the 
emphasis on Gods "forgiving" nature in both genres. Thus the Viddui of an 
18th-century Ashkenazic mahzor in Holland, 57 

Hatot nureinu yi-mahu ka-ananim 

Let the sins of our youth be erased like the clouds, 

exactly prefigures in passive voice the active-voiced wording of that subdi- 
vision s Nehamah: 

V'-salahta la-avoneinu ki rav hu 

And may You forgive our sin, though it be great. 

Not only that, but the melodic pattern of the prayer mode (nusah ha-t'fillah) 
to which the Viddui and the Nehamah are both chanted is the same. 58 

Another complicating factor is that Bakkashot — the name by which 
T'hinnot were known in some communities — often substituted for P'tihot 
because of their beauty. The Persian rite offers a collection of them as private 
invocations of God s mercy, to be read silently prior to the start of public 
worship. 59 These Bakkashot, essentially T'hinnot, often open with confes- 
sional statements and close with consolatory verses; in effect, they constitute 
complete s'lihah units unto themselves. 

Then there is the matter of poetic genres, whether form-based, theme- 
based or event-based, which bear their own appellations. They either apply 
to piyyut in general and not to slihot specifically, 60 or they sound a leading 

56 Tosafot to BT: B'rakhot, 5a; Megillah, 32a; Avodah Zarah, 8b. 

57 Shlomo Katz, ed., Seder HaS'lihotL'-KholHaShanah (Amsterdam: 1994 reprint 
of the 1712 edition), page 103. 

58 Joseph A. Levine. Synagogue Song in America (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 
Inc.), 2001: 123, a-b, which juxtapose a Nehamah setting by Aron Friedmann (1901: 
No. 398a) with a Viddui setting by Josef Heller (1914, Vol. II: No, 260). 

59 Mikraei Kodesh, translated from Judeo-Persian by Simon Hakham, edited by 
Simhah Sason, Jerusalem: Levi, 1902. 

60 T. Car mi, ed. & tr., The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse, ( New York: Penguin), 
1981: 20. The Pizmon form was especially rampant: "a 9 th century payy'tan known as 
'The Anonymous'. . . wrote over 500 Pizmonim which he grafted onto the ICrovot of 
an earlier colleague (Simeon ben Megas, c. 6 th century), each ICrovah containing up 


motif that may recur in any of the services on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kip- 
pur in several piyyutistic guises, 61 or they refer to the martyrdom suffered by 
a particular community. 62 For these reasons the following poetic terms will 
not enter our discussion: 

Sh'niyah ("two-lined"); 

Sh'lishiyah ("three-lined"); 

Shalmonit ("complete"— i.e., four-lined); 

Pizmon (with a "refrain"); 

Akedah (referring — even obliquely — to "The Binding of Isaac"); and 

G'zeirah (decrying a specific "persecution"). 

The Italian rite 63 offers an illustration of the problem. The six subdivisions 
of its Slihot section for Yom Kippur Eve include five poems that feature a 
Pizmon. Two of the five Pizmonim function as Petihot, while three of them 
serve as Nehamot. Even more confusing, one of the two P'tihah-Pizmonim 
(page 162) and one of the three Nehamah-Pizmonim (page 174) feature the 
identical refrain, 

Ba-erev hi baah, uva-boker hi shavah 

In the evening she arrives, 

And in the morning she departs (Esther 2: 14). 

The Emergence of STihot as a Separate Category of Piyyut 

Originally, piyyutim served the statutory blessings and liturgical verses be- 
tween which they appeared, interposing words borrowed from the liturgical 
passage that followed. The borrowed words constituted what is known as a 
"transitional passage" (tur ha-rna'avar). 64 The inserted transitional passage 
may have been metaphoric or formulaic, hut it always referred to the bless- 
to ten parts that can serve as receptacles for multiple piyyutim. 

61 This is particularly true of the Akedah type. Elbogen, HaT'fillah B'-Yisrael, 
1972 & 1993: 183; Fleischer, Shirat HaKodesh, 1975: 470; Leon J. Weinberger, Jewish 
Hymnography — A Literary History (London: The Littman Library of Jewish Civiliza- 
tion), 1998: 327. As an example, the Macedonian payy'tan Mordecai ben Shabbetais 
so-called ' Akedah! '—EM, Mfialti ("My God, My Refuge") for recitation in early-morning 
Slihot services during the month of Elul, opens every strophe with the word Boker 
(morning), and neither mentions the Binding of Isaac nor alludes to it. 

62 Elbogen, HaT'fillah B'-Yisrael 1972 & 1993: 183; Gezeirot are found almost 
exclusively in the Franco-German rites. 

63 Menahem Emmanuel Hartoum, ed. and tr., Mahzor Minhag Italy ani l'-Fi ha- 
Minhag b'-Khol ha-K'hillot (Rome: Carrocci), 1988: 152-189. 

64 Fleischer, Shirat HaKodesh, 1975: 70-72. 


ing or verse into which it led, and hazzanim treated it as a musical bridge to 
the impending nusah ha-ffillah. In sum, the tur ha-ma'avar functioned as a 
P'tihah in miniature. 

Later, more specialized piyyutim that beseeched Gods mercy or lamented 
national calamities — slihot — broke away from the ICrovot chains of up to ten 
piyyutim that were added to the first four blessings of the Amidah on holy 
days. At first, slihot were limited to weekday fast days, 65 appearing in the sixth 
blessing of the Daily Amidah. That blessing, called "Slihah," 66 begins with the 
combined supplication/confession S'lah lanu, Avinu ("Our Father, forgive 
us despite our having sinned"), and ends with the consolation hannun, ha- 
marbeh lis-lo'ah ("Gracious One, Who pardons abundantly"), so embedded 
in every section of our liturgy is the recognition of Israels ongoing need for 
Nehamah. In the Amidot of Yom Kippur, slihot are grouped within the fourth 
blessing — ICdushat Hayyom (Benediction of the Day) — or as a Seder Slihah 
later on in the service when the Amidah is not repeated, as in Ma ariv. 

Transitions between individual slihot differ from those between piyyutim, 
whose connecting links are smooth and without obvious breaks or patches. 
Liturgical custom has surrounded piyyutistic slihot with discrete opening and 
closing passages, a complex framework of biblical verses, phrases or single 
words garnered from throughout Tanakh. These fragments were rearranged 
to carry a liturgical message conducive to a mood of penitence, and often 
provided with a repeating refrain tagged by a word such as Aneinu ("answer 
us") or a phrase such as Hu Ya-Aneinu ("He will surely answer us") 67 

One such piyyutistic slihah, Eil, Melekh Yosheiv... ("God, judging merci- 
fully"), functions as a Viddui, poetically acknowledging our having missed 
the mark: 

moheil avonot amo... marbeh mehilah V-hata'ivn u- slihah V-fosh'im 
forgiving Your people's sins... generously forgiving sinners and pardoning 

For that eventuality, the Midrash assures us, God Himself has "taught us to 
recite the Thirteen Attributes of Divine Mercy (Adonai, Adonai — merciful, 
compassionate and patient God..."; Exodus 34: 6-7). 68 

65 Ibid, page 71. 

66 ArtScroll Siddur, p. 102. The Daily Amidah s opening blessings 1-3 feature 
praise, as do its closing blessings 17-19; its middle section— blessings 4 -16— contains 
petition exclusively (BT B'rakhot, 34a). 

67 Found in ArtScroll Machzorfor Yom Kippur, p. 140. 

68 Based on BT, Rosh HaShanah 17b. The commentators Onkelos, Abraham 


The function of Adonai, Adonai in this liturgical context is that of a Thinnah, 
central part of the slihah unit in which it appears: 

Adonai, Adonai, Eil rahum V-hanun, erekh apayim... 

an enumeration of God s Thirteen Merciful Attributes. All that is missing from 
this supplication in the form of a biblical list is an imperative verb reminding 
God to exercise the merciful attributes. That verb is provided by a third verse, 
linked here to the previous Viddui and Thinnah, but actually separate from 
them in the Bible (Exodus 34: 9). 

V'-salahta laavoneinu uV-hatateinu u-nhaltanu 

Therefore, pardon our iniquity and our sin; claim us for Your own. 

This clears the way for Gods assurance (and our consolation) that forgiveness 
is indeed at hand. For that purpose, two more verses (Numbers 14: 19-20) 
are quoted (my emphases): 

S'lah na la-avon ha-am ha-zeh... 

May it please You to forgive Your people s sin... 

Va-yomer Adonai, salahti ki-dvarekha 

and God said, "I forgive, as you have requested" 

A better reassurance that Israels prayer is heard on High we could never 
find! That is why the tripartite subdivision of EH, Melekh Yosheiv /Adonai, 
Adonai, / Va-yomer Adonai takes pride of place within the Seder S'lihah of 
all rites, and is recited multiple times in many of them. 

Forgiveness (or Lack of It) in the Bible 

Prayers asking divine pardon first appear in Genesis chapter 18, where the 
inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorroh fail to acknowledge their monstrous 
behavior. It is Abraham who pleads for God to spare them despite their sinful- 
ness (verse 23). He has no choice but to admit the inhabitants' wrongdoing; 
God had already mentioned it as justification for punishment (verse 20). 
"Will You also destroy the [few] righteous with the [many] wicked?" asks 
Abraham. This argument seems effective in theory but fails the test when put 

ibn Ezra, Rashi and Sforno all interpret the preceding verse, Exodus 34: 5, thus: "And 
Adonai descended in the cloud and stood with him (i. e., Moses), and called the Inef- 
fable Name, did Adonai" (va-yikra v'-Sheirn, Adonai); a reading that acknowledges 
the Masoretic placement of a strong pausal disjunctive— tippha— after "Name" and 
before the second "Adonai." This pausation scheme differs from the one in an almost 
identical passage in Genesis (12: 8) where Masoretic placement of the tippha is after 
"called": "And [Abram] called, the name Adonai {va-yikra, v'-Sheim Adonai)" 


into practice; God does not find the agreed-upon minimum often righteous 
individuals, and destroys both cities (verses 19-20). 

The same pattern recurs in the Book of Exodus (32: 31). There, it is the 
entire congregation of Israel who transgress by worshiping a molten calf 
and not owning up to the enormity of their misdeed. Instead, Moses must 
step forward to act as their advocate. Despite his plea that God forgive them 
(verse 32,) the people are afflicted with a plague (verse 35). Moreover, even 
the divinely prescribed formula for calling upon the name of God — Adonai, 
Adonai, EilRahum V'-Hanun... promised in 33: 19 and given in 34: 6-7— does 
not absolve the guilty ones. Verse 7 states: v'-nakeh loyenakeh ("but God does 
not remit all punishment"; my emphases). 

We find a reason as to why this is so in Numbers chapter 5, verses 6-7, 
which specify that personal confession is required for absolution from sin 
(my emphases): 

If a man or woman commits any wrong against a person [mi-kol hattot 
ha-adam] whereby he trespasses against YHWH, when that person feels 
guilt, he shall confess the wrong [hattat-] he has done, and make reparation 
in its entirety. 

From a parallel passage in Leviticus (5: 5-6), Moshe Greenberg draws the 
inference "that the confession must be performed before the sacrifice is of- 
fered" (my emphases): 69 

When [a soul] shall be guilty... he shall confess that he has sinned... and 
he shall bring his trespass offering/' 

Only then shall "the priest make atonement for him." 

Confession of wrongdoing nowadays is accomplished by means of a Viddui, 
whether biblical or piyyutistic. Bringing one s trespass offering has transmu- 
tated into offering verbal supplication through a Thinnah, again: biblical or 
piyyutistic. But the order in which these two steps of T shuvah (repentance) 
are accomplished has never changed — first confession; then supplication — as 
Maimonides 70 stresses (my emphases). 

If a person transgresses any biblical commandment — whether willfully 
or inadvertently— he or she must repent of the misdeed and confess it 
before God... Even in the time when Hattat and Asham sacrifices were 
offered, those sacrifices did not atone for sin unless it was preceded 

69 Moshe Greenberg. Biblical Prose Prayer (Berkeley: University of California 
Press), 1983: 30; citing the interpretation of J. Milgrom, Cult and Conscience (Leiden), 
1976: 105. 

70 Philip Birnbaum, ed., Mishneh Torah Le-HaRambam, Abridged Edition, (New 
York: Hebrew Publishing Company), 1944: 36. 


by repentance in the form of confession... The same holds true for 
individuals who are found guilty of crimes deemed worthy of capital or 
corporal punishment; execution or flogging does not bring atonement 
until they repent and confess. It goes without saying that this applies to 
monetary malfeasance which harms another... as it is written [Numbers 
5: 6]: "If a man or woman commits any wrong against a person." 

Greenberg derives the complete process of repentance — involving the 
elements of Viddui and Thinnah as well as that of divine reconciliation, 
Nehamah— from First Kings (8: 34-35), Solomons prayer at the First Temples 
dedication 71 (my emphases). 

Should Your people Israel be struck by an enemy because they have sinned 
against You, let them turn again to You and confess before You and pray 
and offer supplication to You in this house; then You will hear in heaven 
and forgive Your people Israel. 

Greenberg also notes how the Book of Jonah, chapter 1 reinforces the no- 
tion that God is ever ready to withhold punishment when humans openly 
admit their wrongdoing and resolve to do better. 72 Neil Gillman refers to 
this apparent change in God s formerly implacable stance as "intra-biblical 
revisionism... because 'preemptive repentance'... enters into the picture 
between the sin and the punishment." 73 Instead of waiting for repentance 
to follow punishment as in the earlier prophets, Jonah takes the initiative 
and sets in motion a three-step penitential process of confessing, pleading 
and reconciling with God to avert punishment on behalf of the ships crew 
(chapter 1: 12), a third-person advocacy tactic that had not worked for Moses 
on behalf of Israel at the time of the molten calf (Exodus 32: 33). First comes 
confession (my emphasis): 

And [Jonah] said unto [his shipmates], "Take me up and cast me forth 
into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you, for I know that for my 
sake this great tempest is upon you." 

Jonahs confession (Viddui) will bring forgiveness for his shipmates, but 
not before they themselves cry unto God: 

We beseech You, Adonai, let us not perish for this mans life and lay 
not upon us innocent blood, for You have done what is right in Your 

71 Greenberg, Biblical Prose Prayer, 1983: 28. 

72 Ibid. pp. 15-16. 

73 Neil Gillman, Encountering God in Judaism (Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights), 
2000: 116-118. 


The crew s supplication (T'hinnah) helps turn the tide: 

The sea ceased from her raging (verse 15). 

At that point the men genuinely repent (verse 16) and reconcile themselves 
(Nehamah) with "the God of heaven" that Jonah had mentioned earlier (verse 
9), a god they had never before worshiped and whose connection with the tem- 
pest they hadn't perceived. Now they see things differently (my emphasis): 

Then the men feared Adonai greatly, and offered a sacrifice unto Him, 

and made vows. 

Gods reconciliation with the crew did not include Jonah, with whom He still 
had unfinished business, namely the carrying out of a divine command to 
denounce the city of Nineveh for its wickedness. 

A second tripartite slihah unit unfolds in the Book of Daniel, chapter 9 
(my emphases). 

Viddui (verses 14-15): 

I prayed to... God and made confession, saying, ... "We have sinned and 
done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from Your 

T'hinnah (verses 16-19): 

Hearken to the prayer of Your servant and to his pleading. And for Your 
own sake, Adonai, cause Your face to shine upon Your sanctuary which 
is desolate. 

Nehamah (verses 20-24): 

The angel Gabriel... came to me... and said,... "At the beginning of your 
supplications a word went forth. . . for you are greatly beloved. . . to expiate 
all transgression." 

Here we clearly see the connection that Scripture makes between reconcilia- 
tion and forgiveness) Daniels Nehamah arrives with slihah from God. 

We find a third proto-slihah unit in Psalm 130, this time complete with 
Introduction and a characteristic psalmodic shift from first-to-third person 
in the final verse 74 (my emphases): 
P'tihah (verses 1-2): 

Out of the depths / called You, Adonai; listen to my cry, be attentive to 
my supplication; 

74 This shift from first to third person towards the end of a Psalm occurs in 55 
of the 150 Psalms; Alfred Sendrey, Music in Ancient Israel (New York: Philosophical 
Press), 1969: 130. 


Viddui (verse 3): 

If You kept account of sins, O Lord... who would survive; 

T'hinnah (verses 4-5): 

Yours is the power to forgive... / [therefore] look to Adonai, / await His 
[forgiving] word; 

Nehamah (verses 7-8): 

For with Adonai there is love and great power to redeem. It is He Who 
will redeem Israel from all its iniquities. 

Forgiveness in the Liturgy 

The three-part Forgiveness formula of Confession, Pleading and Consolation 
—based on the biblical precedents in First Kings chapter 8, Jonah chapter 
1, Daniel chapter 9 and Psalms 130— quite naturally carried over into the 
liturgy Ezra Fleischer specifies weekday fasts as the primary occasions when 
penitential biblical verses were added to the liturgy 75 Over the centuries, 
piyyutistic slihot filled the gaps between verses, forming units that found a 
home in the Yom Kippur liturgy and were eventually organized as a special 
section, Seder S'lihah, as discussed earlier (see note 3). The subdivisions within 
Seder Slihah took their cue from the High Priest s three confessionals during 
the Avodah rituals of the Day of Atonement. 76 

Here is the High Priest s first confessional, in its essence. 77 

Viddui: hatati... ani u-veiti ("I and my household have sinned...") 

T'hinnah: kaper na... I'-fanekha ("forgive the sins we have committed 
before You..."); 

Nehamah: ki va-yom ha-zeh... lifnei Adonai ("for it is written, 
'On this day you shall be purified before God"'). 

In both the Ashkenazic and Sephardic rites for Shaharit, Musaf and Min- 
hah on Yom Kippur, introductory P'tihot 78 to the slihah units evolved from 
biblical verses or parts of verses, similarly to the process by which Vidduyim, 

75 Fleischer, Shirat HaKodesh 1975: 71. 

76 Mishnah Yoma, 3.8, 17-19, based on Leviticus 16, specifically verse 17: "when 
he [the High Priest] has made atonement for himself, for his household, and for the 
whole congregation of Israel." 

77 ArtScroll Machzorfor Yom Kippur, p. 560; the second and third confessionals 
appear on pp. 562 & 566, respectively 

78 Ibid. pp. 104, 113, 584, 676. In the Sephardic rite, David De Sola Pool, ed., Tfillot 
L'-Yom Kippur, IC-fi Minhagei Ha-Sefardim B'-Amerikah 1974: 51-53, 173, 174, 175; 
see also Kieval, The High Holy Days, 2004: 245. 


Thinnot and Nehamot developed. One of the longest Plihot in Ashkenazic 

Shomeia t'fillah, adekha kol basar yavo'u 

All flesh comes before You, the One Who hears prayer (Psalms 65: 3) 79 

— is the second of two P'tihot that traditionally open the first unit of the 
Seder Slihah on Yom Kippur Eve. It strings together 42 biblical quotes so 
seamlessly that the Plihah reads as if its verses had originally appeared in 
that exact sequence. 80 

Slihot were positioned in different parts of the service by different commu- 
nities. Italian and German Jews adhered to the dictum of the 9 th -century Gaon 
in Sura— Sar Shalom— adding Seder Slihot to the final Amidah blessing, 81 
while Sephardic and Polish custom placed it after the Amidah. 82 Vidduyim, 
Thinnot and Nehamot of individual units within the larger Slihot section 
sometimes alternate with Piyyutim that do not fall under the heading, "Peni- 
tential." The American Sephardic mahzor offers a parade example; it lumps 
together piyyutim and slihot of all categories and genres — before, within and 
after individual subdivisions, without any apparent logic. 83 This muddies the 
water for anyone who is seeking a clear-cut ending of one unit and a discrete 
beginning of the next. Nor has Ashkenazic helter-skelter scattering of local 
favorites throughout Slihot sections helped in this regard; some European 
communities used to distribute leaflets annually just before the High Holy 
Days, announcing that particular year s lineup. 84 

Anthropologist Laurence D. Loeb recorded his surprise at the freedom 
allowed shlihei tsibbur (communally appointed leaders of prayer) in 1960s 

79 ArtScroll Machzor for Yom Kippur, p. 104. 

80 Also typical of this piyyut form is the Hodu VAdonai Kir'u Vi-Shmo following 
Barukh She-Amar in the P sukei D'-Zimra section of Shaharit; Scherman, ArtScroll 
Siddur, 1984: 60-64. A non-Ashkenazic parallel to Shomeia T'fillah in length is a Ne- 
hamah that follows Ado nai, Adonai to conclude the sixth unit of the Yom Kippur Eve 
Slihot section in the Italian rite— 52 verses strung together in piyyut style; Hartoum, 
Mahzor Italy anU 1988: 184-189. 

81 David De Sola Pool, ed. Tfillot L'-Yom Kippur, K'fi Minhagei Ha-Sefardim 
B'-Amerikah 1974: 51-64; 177-192. 

82 Abraham Zvi Idelsohn, Jewish Liturgy (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston), 
1932:44-45; ArtScroll Siddur, p. 102. 

83 Lawrence A. Hoffman, The Canonization of the Synagogue Service (South 
Bend, IN: Notre Dame University Press), 1979: 112-114. 

84 Daniel Goldschmidt, ed., Mahzor La Yamim HaNora'im—L'Fi Minhagei B'nei 
Ashkenaz L'-Khol Anfeihem, Vol. II, Yom Kippur (Jerusalem: Koren), 1970: 13, n.7. 


Iran, not only in the interpretation of various texts, but in the choice of prayer 
as well (my emphases). 

Here, for the first time, I have seen shlihei tsibbur free to choose which 
prayers they wish to recite... The matbeia shel t'fillah remains, but 
piyyutim... of all kinds may be spontaneously selected by the shliah 
tsibbur. Sometimes, he may introduce an old prayer not found in modern 
siddurim, but which may exist in kitbeiyad (manuscripts). 85 

Nehamot in Various Rites 

Nehamot frequently appear in clusters, to intensify the consolation they bring. 
Thus, the Aramaic phrase Zayin d'-Nehemta, "Seven Consolatory" Haftarot 
read on the seven Shabbatot that follow the fast of Tishah B Av, ninth day of 
the midsummer month of Av. The first of those consolatory Haftarot, in fact, 
begins (my emphases) 

Nahamu, nahamu ami, yomar Eloheikhem 

"Take Comfort, My people" says your God (Isaiah 40: 1). 

Solomon Mandelkern cites that phrase and 36 other biblical Nehamot in 
which God either promises future reconciliation or has become reconciled 
with humans' frailty, if they repent and offer prayers of supplication. 86 This 
is rendered most often by the verb N-H-M in its various declensions: niham\ 
hinaheim; m'naheim; t'nuham; hitnaheim, etc. 

The verb N-H-M figures prominently in the Golden Calf incident (Exodus 
32: 1-6), when God resolves to utterly destroy the people (verse 10). Moses 
implores God (verse 12; my emphases): 

shuv mei-haron apekha v'-hinaheim al ha-ra'ah V-amekha 

turn from Your fierce wrath and repent 87 of the evil against Your 

God does repent of the evil He planned to do to His people (verse 14; my 
emphasis) — 

Va-yinahem Adonai al hara'ah asher diber la'asot V-amo— 

but not enough to defer the punishment that swiftly ensues; 3,000 are slain 
by the Levites, in God s name (verses 27-28). 

85 Laurence D. Loeb, "Hazzanut in Iran," Journal of Synagogue Music, Vol. I, No. 
3, January 1968: 5. 

86 Solomon Mandelkern, ed. Konkordentsiyah La-Tanakh (Jerusalem: Schoken), 
1967: 737-738. 

87 The past-perfect hitpa'eil form, yet another possible meaning of the verb N-H-M. 


Why did Moses' plea and repentance not stay God s wrath? Because the 
plea and repentance were not preceded by the people's confession) so says the 
Midrash. 88 It was God— atop the mountain— Who pointed out to Moses what 
Israel had done (verses 7-8). 

Lekh reid ki shiheit amkha... 
Hurry down, for your people... have made 
themselves a golden calf and bowed low to it and 
sacrificed to it, saying: "This is your god, O Israel, 
who brought you out of the land of Egypt." 

True, Moses had offered a T'hinnah on the peoples behalf in verses 11- 
13. Yet, because there had been no Viddui on the people s part, they did not 
merit the consolation of a Nehamah. Since it was God Who "confessed" the 
peoples sin, it was God Who "reconciled" Himself to the punishment that 
followed. What better precedent for the anonymous liturgist who first posi- 
tioned this verse after Viddui and Thinnah, to remind God that just as He 
sought Nehamah after biblical Israel sinned, so do the descendants of those 
Israelites now seek reconciliation with Him when they transgress. 

Since Nehamot quite often consist of only a single verse or phrase, they are 
hardest to document as the concluding genre of Seder Slihah subdivisions. 
Still, there was a long- standing popular tradition to conclude non-obligatory 
supplications with what Joseph Heinemann calls a "eulogy formula" like 
the one mentioned in Rav Amrams Seder (page 260): "O forgiving God." 89 
Admittedly, the halakhah normally prohibited using this type of wording or 
creating new brakhot in general, but such circumscription never applied to 
Nehamot. Example: the 10 th -century Siddur of Rav Saadya Gaon 90 adds this 
subscription to its Seder Slihah: 

Ki al rahamekha ha-rabbim anu v'tuhim 

For we are confident of Your great mercy. 

Even the anti-rabbinical Karaite tradition, which traces its roots back to 
the 9 th -century Babylonian exilarch, Anan ben David, follows universal Jewish 
practice in concluding its Seder Slihah with words of consolation and com- 
fort. In keeping with Karaite belief that Hebrew Scripture or Mikra 91 — from 
the verb K-R-A, "to read" — should be our sole source of religious practice 

88 Midrash Tanhuma on Ki Tissa; Shmot Rabba, 42-43. 

89 Joseph Heinemann. Prayer in the Talmud (Berlin: De Gruyter), 1977: 177. 

90 Davidson et al, Siddur Rav Saadya Gaon, 1978. 

91 Weinberger, Romaniote Penitential Poetry, 1980: 3; 165-181. 


(the name "Karaites" could just as easily have been "Mikra-ites"), every unit 
of their slihot prayers ends with the reading of an optimistic passage from 
Mikra. The slihah genre that Karaites call K'ri'ah ("reading")— parallels what 
rabbinical tradition calls Nehamah. 

The natural place of Nehamah at the completion of slihah units is also 
confirmed by an anthology that groups into subdivisions every genre of peni- 
tential poems sung by Jews living in formerly Byzantine regions surrounding 
the Mediterranean. 92 These include the Balkans, present-day Greece, Asia 
Minor, Constantinople, Syria, Israel and Egypt. The minhag of these regions, 
called Romaniote, developed sometime after the fourth century. 93 Romaniote 
piyyutim fall under four sequential headings that can be reduced to three 
genres according to their liturgical function: 

P'tihah (Hakdamah / P'sukei D'-Rahamei); 


T'hinnah (Tahanun / Litaniyah / S'lihah). 

The Romaniote headings P'tihah, Hakdamah and P'sukei D'-Rahamei are 
used interchangeably for introductory slihot. 94 The headings Tehinnah, 
Tahanun, Litaniyah and Slihah are used interchangeably for supplications. 95 
Viddui always appears after P'tihah / Hakdamah / P'sukei D'-Rahamei (with an 
extra P'sukei D'-Rahamei often added after the Viddui) 96 and before T'hinnah 
/ Tahanun / Litaniyah / Slihah (with yet another Psukei D'-Rahamei possibly 
being added afterwards). 97 

If Nehamah seems to be missing from this schematic, it is "missing" only 
as a formal heading, but implicitly present in a paragraph of instructions ap- 
pended to the Romaniote Seider Slihah. The instructions, referring to Seder 
Rav Amram Gaon, 98 give only the opening words and biblical sources for 
several selections that are unmistakably Nehamot in tone and function. Here 
are a few of the indicated verses from Tanakh. 99 

92 Andrew Sharf, s.v. "Byzantine Empire," Encyclopedia Judaica, 1972, Vol. 4: 

93 Weinberger, Romaniote Penitential Poetry, 1980: 4-6. 

94 Ibid, pages 6-7. 

95 Ibid, pages 10-11. 

96 Ibid, page 12. 

97 Ibid, page 17. 

98 Ibid, page 18, designated as SRA"G. 

99 Idem, Psalms 20: 2, 3, 10; First Kings 8: 57, 59. 


Ya'ankha Adonai b'-yom tsarah... yishlah ezr'kha mi-kodesh 
God will answer you in the day of trouble... 
He will send your help from the Holy Place 

Adonai hoshi'ah; ha-Melekh ya'aneinu v'-yom kor'einu 
God will indeed save us; the King will hear us when we call 

Y'-hi Adonai Eloheinu imanu ka'asher hay ah im avoteinu 
The Lord our God will be with us as He was with our forebears 

V'-yi-hyu d'varai eileh asher hit-hananti... k'rovim el Adonai 
Let these, my pleading words... be ever near to God 

At the very end of a Seder Slihah according to the Greek minhag, there 
appear several anonymously authored piyyutistic Nehamot written in a 
similar vein. 100 

Ti-nahami v'-tomri, anokhi mariti 

Be comforted, even as you acknowledge your disobedience 

V-eit hish li-g'ulah, yshuateinu v'-ezrateinu selah 

for it is time to hasten redemption, our help and salvation forever. 

Stilomo V-arno yifdeh b'li mikhlom, 
Y'-vareikh et amo v'-shalom 
God will deliver his people without shame, 
And bless them with peace. 

Unfortunately, Jewish history has witnessed enough suffering to fill entire 
libraries with s'lihot. Many poems lamenting tragic events remained in S'lihot 
services of the various minhagim into modern times, augmenting an already 
overflowing roster of penitential genres that cover the gamut of categories 
enumerated earlier (see notes 41-55). This virtually un-navigable surplus has 
prompted the editors of Slihot anthologies in recent centuries to provide 

100 Ibid, pages 165, 166, 181. 


subheadings of better-known genres — but never of Nehamot — a puzzling 
omission, in view of their ubiquity. 

North African communities' mahzorim name the final pages of their S'lihot 
service P'sukei Ritsui S'lihah D'-N'hemta (Verses invoking divine acceptance 
of consoling forgiveness prayers). 101 Middle Eastern Sephardic rites head their 
concluding subsection P'sukei D'-Rahamei (Verses Invoking God's Mercy), 102 
a title that can prove confusing since the Franco-German Mahzor Vitry from 
the 12 th century uses that title for its opening P'tihot as well. If no heading 
appears for Nehamot, we must rely on content, as in the case of Romaniote, 
where the import of its Slihot anthology's concluding verses speaks louder 
than any heading. 

The 19 th -century rite of Livorno 103 ends its Seder S'lihah with a biblical verse 
that readers of this essay will by now recognize (Leviticus 16: 30). 

Ki va-yom ha-zeh y'-khaper aleikhem V-taher et-khem mi-kol 

For on this day will God grant atonement to cleanse you from all your 

The current Italian mahzor 104 ends Seider S'lihah by paraphrasing Psalms 
25: 11. 

ll-ma'an shimkha, Adonai, v'-salahta la-avoneinu ki rav hu 
For Your name's sake, Adonai, You will surely forgive our many sins. 

An earlier mahzor of post-Renaissance Italian Jewry closed its S'lihot identical- 
ly. 105 So does a still-used mahzor of the Ashkenazic Dutch community from 
the 18 th century. 106 The verse from Psalms cited by all these rites addresses 
God in the second person singular and uses the imperative form. It is spoken 
with the familiar tone of self-confidence before God that permeates the private 
s'lihot prayers of sages in the Talmud 107 — the telltale sign of a Nehamah. 

101 Seder Siftei R'nanot (Tripoli: n. p.), 1925: 43. 

102 Yaakov Levi, ed., Seder Ha-S'lihotK'-fi Minhagei Ha-Sefardim (Jerusalem: Yad 
HaRavNisim), 1995:40. 

103 F Consolo, Libro dei canti d'Israele—Ebrei Spagnoli (Florence), 1892. 

104 Hartoum, Mahzor Minhag Italyani, 1988:970. 

105 Samuel David Luzzato. Mahzor Italyani (Livorno, 1855, itself an update of 
Mahzor Bologna, 1545): 76. 

106 Shalom Katz, ed., Seder S'lihot Kol HaShanah (Amsterdam: reprint of 1712 
edition), 1994: 103. 

107 Heinemann, Prayer in the Talmud, 1977: 190. 


A comparable optimism characterized the 19 th -century South German 
minhag whose slihah subdivisions ended with a Nehamah that is just short 
of triumphalist. In an article on that tradition, Geoffrey Goldberg writes of 
Maier Levi (1813-1874), a teacher in the Jewish High School of Esslingen, near 
Stuttgart, who "bequeathed to us one of the most important documents... 
emanating from the period of the Emancipation." 108 In a graceful hand-written 
script, Levi transcribed the words and prevalent chants for a typical slihot 
subdivision of Musaf L'-Yom Kippur (identical to what would be recited in 
Maariv, where Levi omits Seder Slihah altogether). Its Nehamah opens with 
Al tavo v'-mishpat aleinu ("Do not pass judgement upon us") and closes with 
a verse from Psalms (20: 10), 

Adonai hoshia, ha-Melech ya'-aneinu V-yom koreinu 

God will save! The King will answer us on the day of our calling. 109 

The current mahzor of Jews from North Africa, 110 as well as Saadyah 
Gaons Siddur that reflected Sephardic synagogue worship in the early- 10 th 
century, 111 close their Slihot sections with another biblical verse bearing as- 
surance of prayer acceptance on High (Exodus 33: 19). 

Va-yomer, Ani a'avir kol tuvi alpanekha, V-karati v'-sheim Adonai 
V-fanekha, V-hanoti et asher a-hon, V-rihamti et asher a-raheim 

And [God] said, "I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will 
proclaim before you the name Adonai and the grace that I grant and the 
compassion that I show." 

Contemporary American Sephardim conclude Seder Slihah on Kol Nidre 
night with a biblical Nehamah from Micah (7: 18-20). 112 Orthodox Ashkenazim 

108 Geoffrey Goldberg. "The Cantorial Fantasia Revisited: New Perspectives on 
an Ashkenazic Musical Genre," Musica Judaica, Vol. XVII (New York: The American 
Society for Jewish Music), 2003-2004: 36. 

109 The Compendium of Maier Levi of Esslingen — Musaf L'-Yom Kippur (Phila- 
delphia: The Eric Mandell Music Collection at Gratz College). On a 2005 visit I found 
only six uncatalogued volumes of handwritten musical notation with passages pasted 
in from the Roedelheim Mahzor edited by Wolf Heidenheim, ca. 1840. A decade and 
a half before, Goldberg had discovered eight volumes in the collection. 

110 Yaakov Levi, ed., Seder S'lihptlC -Minhag Kehillot Yisrael Sheb'-Tsafon Afrikah 
(Jerusalem: n. p.), 1995: 36. 

111 Davidson et al, Siddur Rav Saadyah Gaon, 1978: 305. 

112 De Sola Pool, Tfillot L'-Yom Kippur, 1974: 59-60. 


in the United States quote the same two verses, but at the end of Slihot in 
the Musaf service of Yom Kippur day. 113 

Mi Eil kamokha, nosei avon v'-oveir alpesha li-sh'eirit nahalato... ti-tein 
emet V-Ya'akov, hesed V-Avraham, asher nishbata la-Avoteinu vni-mei 

Who is like You, forgiving iniquity and remitting transgression by the 
remnant of Your people, You will keep faith with Jacob and show to 
Abraham the loyalty You promised our ancestors from ancient times. 

An undated compendium of Ashkenazic slihot, possibly from the early- 
20 th century, includes a sample unit for Yom Kippur Eve, 114 which ends with 
the Nehamah 

Ki atah, Adonai, tov V-salah l'-khol korekha 

For You, Adonai, are good and forgiving to all who call upon You. 

ArtScroll Siddur, 115 much preferred among synagogue-going American Jews 
for its copious (if unabashedly Fundamentalist) footnotes, gives the following 
Nehamah for the opening subdivision of a Seder Slihah recited on weekday 
fasts after the Amidah: 

K'-raheim av al banim... Adonai Hoshiah, 

ha-Melekh ya'aneinu V-yom koreinu 

As a father pities his children... God will save, 

the King will answer us on the day when we call. 

In sum: all rites, whether Ashkenazic, Sephardic or innumerable shades in 
between, offer words of comfort and reconciliation with God after every 
communal recitation of a Seder Slihah. 

Birkat HaMazon — the Grace after Meals 116 — does likewise, amidst a se- 
ries of petitions for our personal, communal and national welfare. May the 
Merciful One: sustain us in honor; break our yoke of oppression; lead us to 
our land, etc. These are all what we might think of as Thinnah-equivalents. 
Then comes a petition with the identical invocation— but with a request for 
Nehamah (my emphases). 

113 Scherman, ArtScroll Mahzor for Yom Kippur, 1986: 608. 

114 Slihot Im Peirushim Yafim M'lukatim U-M'sudarim K'-Fi Seider U-Minhag 
B'nei K"K Ha-Ashkenazim, Yishrnreim Ha-Eil (Venice: Z. Bragdin), n. d.: 37b. 

115 ArtScroll Siddur, pp. 816-820. 

116 Ibid, pages 192-193. 


HaRahaman huyishlah lanu etEiliyahu ha-Navi... 
vi-vaser lanu b'sorot tovot, y'shu'ot v'-nehamot 

May the Merciful One send the Elijah the Prophet... 

to bring us good tidings, salvation and consolation. 

A similar need for divine comfort was apparently felt by the unknown 
liturgist who inserted into BirkatHaMazon V- Veit ha-Eivel, Grace after Meals 
that is recited in a house of mourning, a paragraph that begins and ends with 
Nehamot (my emphases): 117 

Naheim, Adonai Eloheinu, etaveilei Tsiyon... 

Comfort, O god, all who mourn Zion... 

BarukhAtah... m'-Naheim Tsiyon u-Voneh Yerushalayim 
Blessed are You... Who comforts Zion and rebuilds Jerusalem. 

An almost identical paragraph appears in the Minhah Amidah for Tish ah 
BAv, 118 asking comfort for all Israel over the destruction of both Temples and 
the wanton loss of innumerable Jewish lives during the intervening centuries 
since then, on that date. 

A shaft of consoling light penetrates even the gloom of Megillat Eikhka, 
the Book of Lamentations that is chanted on Tish ah BAv. This occurs at the 
21 st verse of the third oiEikhahs five chapters, a turning from the depths of 
despair to the beginning of consolation (my emphases). 

(Continuing despair) Verse 20. Zakhor tizkor v'-tashu'akh alai 


When thinking of my misery, 
I was bowed low. 

(Beginning of consolation) Verse 21. Zot ashuv el libi; al kein o-hil 

But, still I recall it, therefore 
I have hope. 
The remaining two and-a-third chapters of Lamentations pick up this 
comforting theme in several key phrases: 
"Fear not"; 

"God, You have pleaded my cause"; 

"O Daughter of Zion, Edom will no longer carry you away into 

117 Ibid, pages 198-199. 

118 Ibid, pages 240-241. 


"Turn us unto You, O God, and we shall return, renew our days as of 
old!" 119 

If the comforting dawn could break over ancient Judahs abandoned hills 
even on the Black Fast of Tishah BAv, our modern argument (as we shall 
discover in the next subsection) is that we should expect no less in today s 
packed synagogues as the White Fast of Yom Kippur commences with a 
disavowal of all personal vows that we may have made to God, and inadver- 
tently broken. 

Finally— still under the heading of Nehamot in various Rites— there is the 
Talmud's dictum (BT B'rakhot 31 a-b) that Hannahs prayer in First Samuel 
2: 1-10 affords us a model to govern the structure of prayer in all its forms. 
Open with praise of God, continue with personal petition, and close with 
praise of God. 

In the case of slihot, which are petitionary by definition (i. e., asking forgive- 
ness), the opening and closing praise-sections are replaced by confession and 
consolation; central petitioning remains the constant element in all categories 
of prayer. To omit introductory confession would be to disrespect the One at 
Whom our petition for absolution is directed. To omit the concluding con- 
solation would be to ignore God s promise that our plea will not go unheard 
("Before they call, I will answer"; Isaiah 65: 24). 

Kol Nidre— a Prototypical S'lihah Subdivision 

Among the most beloved of all prayers, Kol Nidre — accompanied by a coterie 
of slihah genres — appears at the very beginning of the service. An opening 
unit unto itself, it stands apart from the complete Seder Slihah 120 because the 
Maariv service happens to intervene on that special evening. Nonetheless, 
it serves the function of an opening subdivision, prefiguring every slihah 
subdivision that will follow after the Silent Amidah (my emphases). 

The unit s P'tihah is 

Or Zarua La-Tzaddik Light is sown for the Righteous; 

Psalm 95: ll. 121 

119 Lamentations 3: 57-58, 4: 21-22, 5: 21. 

120 Bacher et al, The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1905, s.v. "Selichah." 

121 Based on a midrash on Ps. 27 [Adonai Ori v'-yish'i) which teaches: this is the 
Light of Creation that has stood ready for the righteous since the beginning of time, 
awaiting the final atonement at the end of days. 


Its two Vidduyim are 

Bi-Yshivah Shel Maalah... 
L'-hitpalleil im ha-avaryanim 
KolNidre ve-esarei ... 

Kul'hon iharatna v'-hon 

... We declare it permissible to pray 

All vows, prohibitions... [i.e., all self- 
assumed obligations]... 
we regret and hereby retract. 

Its T'hinnah begins just past the 
halfway point of Kol Nidre as the 
text shifts from confession to 
supplication with the plea 
Kul'hon y'-hon sharan 

Sephardic practice makes this 
transition from Viddui to 
Thinnah crystal clear by 
assigning the final portion of 
Kol Nidre to the congregation: 
v'ha-kahal onin 

Let all our unattainable vows to 
God be considered null and void. 

And the worshipers answer 
aloud : 122 

Kul'hon y'-hon sharan, 
sh'vikin sh'vitin... 
nidrana la nidrei... 

la sh'vu'ot 

Its Nehamot include V'-Nislah. 
Va-yomer Adonai 
Salahti ki-D'varekha 

Barukh Atah... 
She-Heheyanu. . . 

May they all be undone, 

repealed, cancelled... 

Our vows shall not be considered 


and our promises 

shall not be considered promises. 

All the people were forgiven... 

May it please You to pardon us... 

And God said: 

I have forgiven, as you have 


(which, in the Siddur of Rav Saadya 

Gaon, 123 is intoned by the entire 

kahal in response to the hazzans 


Blessed are You... 

Who has kept us in life. 

122 De Sola Pool, T'fillot L'-Yom Kippur, p. 26. 

123 Davidson et al, 1978: 306. 


With the above prototypical Slihah unit as a template, I have charted eight 
subdivisions (including this one, anchored by Kol Nidre,) that comprise every 
slihah traditionally recited in the Slihot section of Maariv proper on Yom 
Kippur Eve (see Appendix A). 

The Importance of Identifying S'lihot Subdivisions 

By categorizing individual slihot according to their poetic form (see notes 
60-62) rather than by their content and liturgical function, we weaken both 
the structure and our ability to comprehend the underlying logic of universally 
recited Slihot groupings. 124 

Yom Kippur Eves liturgy offers a parade example; it presents an unusual 
challenge by opening with the Kol Nidre unit, a liturgical moment that is 
impossible to surpass! The solution: treat the isolated slihah subdivision in 
which Kol Nidre occurs— in as matter-of-fact a manner as possible; the high 
drama already built into it needs no histrionics. 

Nor is bolstering required by the annual appeal for Israel / Federation / 
Synagogue Building Fund, which comes well within a prime time of congre- 
gational attentiveness that should last through the end of the Amidah. 125 This 
self-motivating phase ends as people seat themselves when they have finished 
praying silently, without fanfare or external assistance. 

But now the seams in worship begin to show. If the sermon fails to re-ignite 
people s devotional fire and transpose them from listeners into participators 
without delay, those seams will surely widen and cause some rough going for 
the duration of the service. Generally beginning in reverential silence, the 
sermon would do well to conclude by meshing imperceptibly with what comes 
next: the Slihot sections opening— a humble nighttime plea— Ya'aleh: 126 

Let our prayer rise up at evening; 

Our petition reach You at dawning, 

Our salvation arrive with the sunset. 

If this first P'tihah of Seider Slihot takes off as scheduled, the congregations 
sense of devotion will sustain itself through all the subdivisions that follow. 

The key to treating slihah subdivisions on Yom Kippur or any other fast 
lies in taking our cue from the textual changes they offer at any given point 

124 Kieval, The High Holy Days, p. 239. 

125 ArtScroll Mahzor for Yom Kippur, pp. 138-142. 

126 Ibid. p. 102. 


in the journey. We need not improvise; the path has been well laid out for us 
by generations past. Should we decide to add more recent texts for the sake 
of relevance, or to substitute piyyutim from other rites in order to be more 
inclusive, we need to make certain that what we re stitching on to the liturgy 
matches its whole cloth. Repairing the world — or the Order of Prayer — can 
cause more problems than it solves, if our repair is not truly "invisible." Just as 
a tailor would not knowingly replace a sleeve with a trouser leg, so too, ought 
we not attempt to slip a philosophical treatise into a confessional slot, or a 
meditation on the existential nature of existence into a series of communally 
sung Nehamot that the usage of centuries has given us. 

Joseph A. Levine holds a doctorate in Sacred Music from the Jewish Theological 
Seminary. He has taught Jewish Music History and Liturgy there, at the Academy 
for Jewish Religion, and at the School for Jewish Liturgical Music at the University of 
London. Dr. Levine serves on the Rabbinical Assembly's Mahzor Committee, and is 
Editor of the Journal of Synagogue Music. His anthology, Emunat Abba-The Sacred 
Chant of Abba YosefWeisgal, was recently republished by the Cantors Assembly in 
a 25th- Anniversary Edition. 


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4.Barukh ... 






The Liturgy of Yom Kippur and Rosh 
HaShanah — Similarities and Differences 

by Hayyim Herman Kieval 

Yom Ha-Kippurim is first mentioned in Leviticus 23: 27 as a Day of Atonement 
to be observed each year "on the tenth day of the seventh month" This name 
has persisted unchanged to the present day, side by side with the popular 
designations — Yom Kippur or simply Kippur — this despite the fact that the 
nature of the day s observance has undergone a thorough transformation from 
the largely cultic rituals depicted in Leviticus, Chapter 16. On the other hand, 
this chapter has been retained unchanged as the text of the Torah portion 
read in the Synagogue for the morning service of Yom Kippur, whereas the 
original Torah readings for the other festivals, as listed in the Mishnah, 1 have 
all undergone changes. Investigation of the origins of Yom Ha-Kippurim and 
its historical relationship to "the first day of the seventh month" (Leviticus 
23: 24), as well as to the festival of Sukkot, beginning on the 15th day of that 
month (ibid., v. 34), lies outside the scope of this study. 2 

Our special interest here is in the process of development by which the theo- 
logical ideas underlying Yom Kippur and Rosh HaShanah and, in particular, 
the expression of these ideas in their respective liturgies, came to be associ- 
ated with one another. Nevertheless, it is pertinent here to cite the paradox 
that the only time the name "Rosh HaShanah" is mentioned in the Hebrew 
Scriptures (Ezekiel 40: 1), it is identified not with the first day of the seventh 

1 Mishnah Megillah 3: 5. Cf. Tosefta Megillah 3(4): 5-8, ed. Lieberman, pp. 354- 

2 For discussion of this question, see Yehezkel Kaufmann, The Religion of Israel, 
translated and abridged by Moshe Greenberg (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 
1960), pp. 305-309; p. 210, n. 17. See also M. H. Segal, "The Religion of Israel Before 
Sinai— Part lY'JQR, LIU (January 1963), pp. 240-255. See also Julian B. Morgenstern, 
"The Three Calendars of Ancient Israel", "Additional Notes", and "Supplementary 
Studies", HUCA, 1924, 1926, 1935; "Two Prophecies of the Fourth Century B.C. and 
the Evolution of Yom Kippur", HUCA, XXIV (1952-53), pp. 1-74. See also Norman 
H. Snaith, The Jewish New Year Festival (London: Society for Promoting Christian 
Knowledge, 1947), pp. 131-141. For more popular presentations, see Theodor H. Gaster, 
Festivals of the Jewish Year (New York: William Sloane Associates, 1953), chapters 7, 
8; and Hayyim Schauss, The Jewish Festivals (Cincinnati: Union of American Hebrew 
Congregations, 1938), chapters 13-17. 


month, but with the tenth day! Yom Kippur was clearly associated with the 
New Year festival. In this connection, it is of interest to note that the Jubilee 
year began officially on Yom Kippur rather than on the first of the seventh 
month (Leviticus 25: 9). The original Hebrew name of this month was yerah 
ha-etanim (I Kings 8: 2). Yerah indicates the lunar month, but the meaning 
oietanim is unclear. 3 Following the return from the Babylonian exile, as the 
Talmud reports, 4 the old Hebrew names were replaced by Babylonian termi- 
nology and the seventh month was henceforth called Tishre (or Tishri). 

In spite of the puzzling problems raised by the multiple calendars of ancient 
Israel, the evolution of Yom Kippur is still far less obscure than that of Rosh 
HaShanah. As we have noted above, the latter is not even referred to by that 
name in the entire Hebrew Bible. Only in the Second Commonwealth period 
did "the first day of the seventh month" become the undisputed New Year 
festival (although other lesser "new years" persisted 5 ) and was henceforth 
called "Rosh HaShanah." What the specific nature of this day was in the early 
Biblical period and how it was observed in detail are still unanswered ques- 
tions. It was, of course, a New Moon (Rosh Hodesh), but undoubtedly a special 
New Moon by virtue of its being the seventh — like the seventh day, seventh 
year, and seven cycles of years. The Torah describes it only as "a complete 
rest, a sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts", shabbaton zikhron 
teru'ah mikra kodesh (Leviticus 23: 24), or simply as yom teru'ah, "a day when 
the horn is sounded" (Numbers 29: 1). Even the familiar association of Rosh 
HaShanah with the rams horn (shofar) as the type of instrument on which 
the prescribed blasts are to be sounded, is nowhere to be found in the Torah. 6 

3 The Bible associates etan with the word nahal (Deuteronomy 21:4; Amos 5: 
24) to designate a watered wadi, i.e., a valley with a perennial brook. Thus, etan signi- 
fies permanent, enduring, mighty. See Brown, Driver and Briggs, A Hebrew Lexicon 
of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), s.v. etan, pp. 450-451. For this 
reason, the Midrash interprets etanim to refer to the Patriarchs, the "mighty ones" of 
Israel; a favorite synonym for Abraham in the Piyyut literature is etan. The seventh 
month is called yerah ha-etanim (I Kings 8: 2), according to the Midrash, because of a 
legend that the Patriarchs were born and died in that month. The folklorist, Yom-Tov 
Lewinsky, prefers to associate etan with streams of water: the seventh month, Etanim, 
is so called because of a number of water ceremonials which have characterized it from 
the earliest times. 

4 Yerushalmi Rosh HaShanah 1: 2, fol. 56d. Cf. Genesis Rabbah 48: 9, ed. The- 
odor-Albeck, p. 485. 

5 Mishnah Rosh HaShanah 1:1; Tosefta Rosh HaShanah 1: 1 ff. 

6 [ For various explanations as to why the shofar is sounded on Rosh HaShanah, 
see D. Golinkin, "The Satan and R. Yizhak Revisited", Conservative Judaism 3: 5/3 


Ironically, in their effort to find a halakhic justification in Scripture for the 
use of the Shofar on the New Year, the Sages had to resort to the analogy of 
the sounding of the Shofar on Yom Kippur— to signal the start of the Jubilee 
year (Leviticus 25: 9)7 

The Biblical Roots of the Yom Kippur Liturgy 

By contrast with Rosh HaShanah, Yom Ha-Kippurim, as we have seen, is 
specifically named as such in the Torah. Its character as a twenty-four hour 
fast, marked by refraining from all forms of labor and by abstinence from 
normal bodily pleasures, is clearly established in this ancient description: "It 
shall be a sacred occasion for you; you shall practice self-denial— you shall do 
no work throughout that day. For it is a Day of Atonement, on which expia- 
tion is made on your behalf before the Lord your God; on the ninth day of 
the month, from evening to evening, you shall observe this, your Sabbath" 
(Leviticus 23: 27, 28, 32). 8 

The Torah, furthermore, gives us considerable information about the 
manner in which worship was conducted on Yom Kippur in Biblical times. 
The 16th chapter of Leviticus contains an elaborate description of the cultic 
rituals of purgation and atonement: for the Sanctuary proper; for the High 
Priest and his household; for his fellow-priests, the family of Aaron; and for 
"the whole congregation of Israel". Upon these rites were based the impres- 
sive ceremonies of the Day of Atonement later conducted by the High Priest 
in the Temple of Jerusalem. These rites, as performed during the period of 
the Second Commonwealth, are recorded in elaborate detail in rabbinic lit- 
erature. In the Mishnah, the Tosefta, and the Talmuds of both Palestine and 
Babylonia, the tractate Yoma is almost exclusively devoted to a description 
and interpretation of these sacerdotal rites. 

The Avodah section of the traditional Yom Kippur worship service to this 
day constitutes a symbolic dramatization of these ceremonies, a reverent 
recollection in the Synagogue liturgy of a rite that had become obsolete with 

(Spring 1982), pp. 50-54 and Kieval, pp. 115 ff.] 

7 Rosh HaShanah 27b. For the Karaite rejection of the Talmudic analogy, see 
Kieval, p. 213, n. 14. The Karaites call the 1st of Tishre Yom Teruah. The Karaite, Daniel 
ben Moses al Kumisi (ca. 900 C.E.), insisted that Rosh HaShanah should be observed on 
the 10th of Tishre and not on the 1st. See Snaith, The Jewish New Year Festival (above, 
n. 2), p. 139 and cf. P. Selvin Goldberg, Karaite Liturgy and Its Relation to Synagogue 
Worship (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1957), pp. 115-119. 

8 Unless otherwise noted, all translations of Pentateuchal passages are from the 
1962 edition of The Torah (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society). 


the destruction of the Temple. Even in this early cultic stage, however, some 
of the elements of the later Yom Kippur prayer service in the Synagogue were 
already present. The High Priest read two passages (Leviticus 16: 1-34 and 
23: 26-32) from the Torah scroll and recited another passage (Numbers 29: 
7-11) from memory. These are virtually the same passages read to this day 
on Yom Kippur morning from the two scrolls in the traditional Synagogue. 9 
The High Priest accompanied his scriptural recitation with a series of eight 
berakhot; only their names and brief formulas of prayer are recorded in the 
Mishnah and Talmud, 10 but their influence is perceived in the Synagogue 
liturgy for Yom Kippur. 11 Most important for the development of the Yom 
Kippur liturgy, the High Priest offered three prayers of confession, which 
the Mishnah records— along with the response of the attendant priests and 
congregation. 12 These confessions are still quoted, verbatim, together with 
other passages from the Mishnah, in the Avodah section of the Yom Kippur 
Musaf service. Furthermore, the confessional of the High Priest influenced 
the language of the prayers of confession, which entered the Synagogue liturgy 
for the Day of Atonement, and other fast days. 

Theological and Liturgical Links between Rosh HaShanah and Yom 

If the Torah is explicit in its description of the worship of the tenth day, Yom 
Ha-Kippurim, it is silent about any connection between it and the first day 
of the seventh month, aside from their calendrical proximity and similar sac- 
rificial offerings (Numbers 29: 1-11). This reticence is remarkable in view of 
the fact that, throughout Talmudic literature— and especially in the liturgy of 
the Synagogue — Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are represented as integral 
parts of one whole. Just how this nexus was established remains something of 
a mystery. We know that during the Second Commonwealth, the evolution 
of the festival designated in the Pentateuch as Yom Teru'ah and Shabbaton 
Zikhron Teru'ah into Rosh HaShanah was completed. In Tannaitic literature, 

9 Mishnah Yoma 7: 1. The passage Akh be-asor (Leviticus 23: 26-32) is omitted 
from the synagogue service on Yom Kippur morning. The Italian Rite adds Leviticus 

10 Mishnah Yoma 7: 1; Yoma 68b and 70a; Yerushalmi Yoma 8: 1, fol. 44b. Cf. 
Mishnah Sotah 7: 7; Sotah 41a; Yerushalmi Sotah 7: 6, fol. 22a. The Yerushalmi passages 
give the fuller wording. 

1 1 This influence is specifically seen in the Kedushat Ha-Yom benediction of the 

12 Mishnah Yoma 3: 8; 4: 2; 6: 2. 


the Rosh HaShanah festival is already so deeply rooted that no need is felt to 
explain the origin of this new name. The tractate of that name in the Mishnah 
and cognate literature simply assumes the New Year function of the day. 

Furthermore, by the Tannaitic period, a theological — and thus also a 
liturgical — relationship between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur is well- 
established; the prayers for the two festivals are referred to, in both Tannaitic 
and Amoraic sources, as sharing a number of characteristics. For example, 
the Tosefta states: "these are the berakhot which are recited at length, the 
berakhot of public fast days, and the berakhot of Rosh HaShanah, and the 
berakhot of Yom Ha-Kippurim" u The Babylonian Talmud (Berakhot 12b) 
specifies two variations in berakhot of the Amidah for the ten-day period from 
Rosh HaShanah through Yom Kippur; one of them, ha-melekh ha-kadosh (in 
place of the customary ha-el ha-kadosh) affects the text of the Amidah on 
both festivals equally. By the time of the post-Talmudic tractate Soferim, the 
liturgy for the two festivals was so closely associated that it was possible to 
state: "Just as the hatimah (closing benediction) of Rosh HaShanah and Yom 
Ha-Kippurim differs from the other festivals, so does their tefillati! 1 ^ 

The liturgical similarities reflect, as is to be expected, the theological ideas, 
which came to characterize both festivals. By the Tannaitic period, Rosh 
HaShanah had already assumed the solemn character of the day of judge- 
ment (din)} 5 Possibly, this development rose by association with the Day 
of Atonement; the Tanna, Rabbi Meir, stated: "Everyone is judged on Rosh 
HaShanah while the decree is sealed on Yom Ha-Kippurim" 16 In Talmudic 
literature and in all sources deriving from it, Rosh HaShanah is invariably 
thought of as the forerunner of Yom Kippur, and the latter as the climax of the 
penitential season inaugurated by the former. The two are inextricably linked 
as twin festivals of judgement, repentance and atonement. Nahmanides gave 
a classic formulation to their theological relationship (in his commentary on 
Leviticus 23: 24): "Rosh HaShanah is the Day of Judgment with Mercy (yom 

13 Tosefta Berakhot 1: 6, ed. Lieberman, p. 3, and the notes to line 32 ibid. 

14 Soferim 19: 6, ed. Higger, p. 328 and Introduction, p. 54. 

15 See Mishnah Rosh HaShanah 1: 2 and Rosh HaShanah 16a; It should be noted, 
however, that this new aspect of the festival, surprisingly, did not find liturgical expres- 
sion until the third century C.E., in the Tekiata d'-Rav, specifically in the prayer, Atah 
zokher. This time-lag may have been caused by the persistence of other traditions con- 
cerning the Yom Ha-Din, e.g., as an aspect of the Messianic era or the belief that there 
existed daily and even hourly judgment of individuals. See Hayyim Leshem, Shabbat 
u-Moadei Yisrael vol. I (Tel Aviv: Niv, 1965), pp. 85-86. Cf. n. 33 below. Tosefta Rosh 
HaShanah 1: 13, ed. Lieberman, p. 308. 

16 Tosefta Rosh HaShanah 1: 13, ed. Lieberman, p. 308. 


din b-rahamim), while Yom Ha-Kippurim is the Day of Mercy with Judgment 
(yom rahamim b-din)" 17 Such was the gradual transformation of the original 
festive joy 18 of the Biblical "first day of the seventh month" into the somberness 
of a satellite to the Day of Atonement, from a theological point of view. 

Even the intervening days took on a solemn character. The entire period 
from the first to the tenth of Tishre came to be considered a religious unit 
and was, in the Amoraic period, given the name, Aseret y'mei teshuvah, the 
"Ten Days of Penitence." 19 The Sages characteristically found a Midrashic 
allusion to this ten-day period in the Biblical verse, "seek the Lord when He 
may be found, call upon Him while He is near" (Isaiah 55: 6). 20 These days 
were considered a special time of grace. This is not to say, of course, that 
thoughts and acts of penitence are not in order at other times and seasons. 
The Sages taught that every day a call comes forth from heaven exclaiming, 
shuvu banim shovavim, "Return, you back-sliding children" (Jeremiah 3: 14 
and 22). 21 The prayer recited each day in the Amidah (birkhat Teshuvah) 
which praises God as "Lord, who delights in repentance," and which originally 
read, in the Palestinian Rite, "Turn us (hashiveinu) unto Yourself, O Lord, 
and we shall be turned (v-nashuvah)" is an answer to this call. Solomon 
Schechter comments: 

17 See Perushei ha-Torah la-Ramban, ed. H. D. Chavel, vol. II (Jerusalem: Mossad 
ha-Rav Kuk, 1975), p. 154, where the source of the idea is traced to the Zoharon Vayera, 
fol 114b. 

18 Numbers 10: 10; Nehemiah 8: 9-10. Cf. Leshem, pp. 86-91 and Kieval, pp. 81, 

19 Yerushalmi Rosh HaShanah 1: 3, fol. 57a. The Bavli (Rosh HaShanah 18a and 
elsewhere) refers to this period simply as 'asarah yamim she-bein Rosh HaShanah 
V-Yom Ha-Kippurim. An alternate term is bein keseh l'-asor. A remote parallel be- 
tween this ten-day period and the zagmuk period of the Babylonian calendar has 
been noted— see Snaith, p. 135; Segal, pp. 252-253; and Gaster, p. 124 (all cited above, 
n. 2). Zagmuk was a period of eleven days from the first to the eleventh ofNisan at 
the Babylonian New Year festival. These days were considered "outside" the calendar. 
There is an ancient tradition preserved in Sifra, Behar 2, ed. Weiss, fol. 106d (cf. Rosh 
HaShanah 8b), in the name of Ishmael the son of R. Yohanan ben Beroka, that the 
slaves who were freed in the Jubilee year feasted from the first of Tishre to the tenth 
of Tishre and then returned to their old homes of pre-slavery days. Snaith interprets 
this tradition as follows: "these days were thus outside' the calendar. The slaves were 
no longer slaves, but at the same time they were not wholly free." 

20 Rosh HaShanah 18a. Cf. Yerushalmi Bikkurim 2: 1, fol. 64d. 

21 Pirke d'Rabbi Eliezer, chapters 15 and 43 and commentaries. 


The call, however, seems to have been especially heard on the Ten 
Penitential Days. These Ten Penitential Days are distinguished by special 
liturgies and by special ascetic practices. But they are only set apart— as a 
special time of grace, but not as the only days of repentance. For repentance 
is as wide as the sea, and as the sea has never closed and man can always 
be cleansed by it, so is repentance, so that whenever man desires to repent, 
the Holy One, blessed be He, receives him. 22 

Pious Jews, especially in medieval times, fasted throughout the Ten Days of 
Penitence, except for the Rosh HaShanah festival, 23 the Sabbath, and the eve 
of Yom Kippur, which, by ancient tradition, was noted as a day of feasting. 24 
The third of Tishre is a mandatory public fast day known as Tsom Gedaliah, 
the Fast of Gedaliah. Gedaliah ben Ahikam, governor of Judea under the 
Babylonians after the First Destruction, was murdered by fellow Judeans (II 
Kings 25: 25; Jeremiah 41: 2). This event continued to be observed as a me- 
morial of the destruction of Solomon s Temple and undoubtedly contributed 
an extra dimension of sorrowfulness to the solemn season. The Sabbath day 
which falls within the Ten Days of Penitence is known as Shabbat Teshuvah or 
Shabbat Shuvah, the Sabbath of "Return" — an allusion to the opening words 
of the Haftarah for that day: Shuvah Yisrael adAdonai Elohekha... "Return, 
O Israel, unto the Lord, your God, for you have stumbled in your iniquity" 
(Hosea 14: 2). Sephardic Jews call this Sabbath also Shabbat Beintayim, i.e., 
the Intervening Sabbath. 

It is interesting to note that even sectarians who reject the Rabbinic for- 
mulation of Jewish tradition— in this instance that the first of Tishre is the 
New Year — nevertheless mark the ten days culminating in Yom Kippur in 
much the same way as the Talmudic Aseret Y'mei Teshuvah. The Karaites, for 
example, who designate the first of Tishre as Yom Teru'ah and observe their 
own "Rosh HaShanah" on the first day of Nisan, nevertheless mark with a 
special liturgy what they call Aseret Y'mei Rahamin ("The ten days of Divine 

22 Solomon Schechter, Some Aspects of Rabbinic Theology (New York: Macmillan, 
1909 and reprints), p. 342. 

23 Ginzberg observes that, in the course of time, the dividing line between Rosh 
HaShanah and Yom Kippur became so thin that, in Geonic times "and perhaps even 
earlier than their time" there is a record of fasting in Palestine even on Rosh HaShanah, 
despite the fact that fasting is forbidden on a festival. See Levi Ginzberg, Perushim 
v-Hiddushim ba-Yerushalmi (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 
1941-1961), Vol IV, p. 258. Cf. Levi Ginzberg, Ginze Schechter, vol II (New York: 
Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1929), pp. 541-542 and 564-565 [and Yitzhak 
Gilat, Perakim Behishtalshelut Hahalakhah, Ramat Gan, 1992, pp. 120-122]. 

24 Berakhot 8b and parallels. 


mercy"). The Samaritans call the first day of the seventh month "the Feast of 
Trumpets" and observe it primarily as the precursor of Yom Ha-Kippurim 
(which they call Kippurim). They regard the entire ten-day period from the 
first day through the tenth as a time of sorrow, penitence, remembrance and 
judgment in connection with the turn of the year. 25 For the Samaritans, Yom 
Kippur became the day of Judgment (Yom al-Diri). 26 "So far as it is possible 
to judge, in cases where there has been an early separation of Jews from the 
mainstream of Jewish development in liturgies, the Festival of the New Year 
is one of penitence and sorrow." 27 

Ultimately, a single name evolved to characterize the twin festivals of New 
Year and Atonement: Yamim Nora'im, the "Days of Awe" or "The Sublime 
Days" (depending on the interpretation of the Hebrew word nord). This 
name is very popular, especially among Ashkenazic Jews. It is also used, by 
extension, to refer to the entire Ten Days of Repentance. The name Yamim 
Nora'im was popularized by the book that describes the customs of R. Jacob 
ben Moses Halevi (1355-1427), known as Maharil. In Minhagei Maharil, an 
influential work on the ritual usage of the Jews of Mayence and the Rhineland 
generally, the chapter on the customs of Rosh HaShanah and the month of 
Elul is entitled Hilkhot Yamim ha-Noraim. The name itself is much older, 
however; it occurs already in the writings of the 12th and 13th-century Tosaf- 
ists: R. Eliezer ben Joel Halevi (Ra-aviah); his pupil, R. Isaac of Vienna; and 
R. Mordecai ben Hillel, a descendant of Ra-aviah who was much admired by 
the Maharil. The popularity of the name Yamim Nora'im reflects the view 
of the legal authorities in Northern Europe that Rosh HaShanah, like Yom 
Kippur, should be a day of total solemnity, devoid of the joyousness originally 
associated with its festive character. 28 

25 See James Montgomery, The Samaritans (Philadelphia: J. C. Winston, 1907), 
pp. 40-41. 

26 Moses Gaster, The Samaritan Oral Law and Ancient Traditions, vol I (Search 
Publishing Company, 1932), pp. 109 ff, 

27 Snaith (above, n. 2), p. 159. 

28 See Leshem, pp. 88-91. Cf. Herman Kieval, The High Holy Days, Book One: 
Rosh HaShanah (New York: Burning Bush Press, 1959), reprinted in Hayyim Herman 
Kieval, The High Holy Days: A Commentary on the Prayerbook of Rosh HaShanah and 
Yom Kippur (Jerusalem: The Schechter Institute, 2004), p. 191, n. 6. 


The Absence of any Reference to Teshuvah in the Foundation- Prayers 
of Rosh HaShanah 

In view of the well-attested development of Rosh HaShanah as the beginning of 
the Aseret Y'mei Teshuvah, it is an astounding fact that the foundation-prayers 
(the pioneers of liturgical studies in Germany called them Stammgebete) for 
this festival, which were crystallized in the Tannaitic and Amoraic periods, 
contain not a single direct reference to the concept of Teshuvah 29 — -let alone 
utilize the word itself in any of its many forms! The literature of the Tannaim 
and Amoraim abounds in references to Rosh HaShanah as an appropriate 
occasion for Teshuvah. The sounds of the Shofar, for example, are interpreted 
in the ancient Midrash (as well as in medieval philosophical and homiletical 
writings) as a "call to repentance" 30 Yet the foundation-prayers for the New 
Year worship, which were shaped by these same Tannaim and Amoraim, fail 
totally to reflect the many allusions to thoughts and acts of penitence which 
elsewhere characterize Rosh HaShanah. 

The earliest specific mention in the Rosh HaShanah liturgy of the cardinal 
Jewish doctrine of Teshuvah comes in the piyyutim, the optional liturgical 
poetry that was composed through the post-Talmudic and medieval periods 
to supplement the mandatory foundation-prayers. 31 The best-known piyyut 
for Rosh HaShanah is U-netaneh tokef, an anonymous fragment (technically 
called a silluk) of a lost kerovah, probably composed in Eretz Yisrael. 32 Mena- 
hem Zulay dated this piyyut to the Byzantine period, probably the late eighth 
century. 33 It contains the verse: U-teshuvah u-tefillah u-tzedakah ma'avirin 
etro'a ha-gezerah, "but repentance and prayer and acts of righteousness avert 
the evil decree" (i.e., can mitigate the severity of the Divine judgment). A 
much older piyyut, Ha-ohez b-yad middat mishpat, popularly known by its 
refrain, V-khol ma'aminim (ascribed by Zulay to the eminent Palestinian poet 

29 George F. Moore, Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era, Vols. I- 
III (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1927-1930)., vol. I, part III, chapters V, VI; 
Ephraim E. Urbach, Hazal: Pirkei Emunot v-Debt (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1969), 
pp. 408-415; The Sages: Their Concepts and Beliefs (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1975), 
pp. 462-471; Schechter, Chapters XVII, XVIII. 

30 Tanhuma, Va-yishlah, 2. Cf. Pesikta d-R. Kahana, ed. Buber, 157a; ed. Man- 
delbaum, pp. 347-348. For discussion of these passages, see Schechter, pp. 342-343. 

31 See Kieval, Chapter II. In the medieval period, entire Selihot are devoted to the 
theme of Teshuvah. 

32 See ibid., pp. 141-145 and pp. 218-219, n. 27. 

33 On the basis of a manuscript in the British Museum G 5557 or., fol. 67b-68b. 
See Eric Werner, The Sacred Bridge (New York: Columbia University Press, 1959), p. 


of the Synagogue, Yannai), depicts God as delighted to accept the Teshuvah of 
His worshippers. These and many similar references in the piyyutim of Rosh 
HaShanah all tend to obscure the fact that the older foundation-prayers are 
completely silent on the theme of Teshuvah. 

Even more remarkable, perhaps, is the fact that this strange silence evoked 
no reaction either in the traditional commentaries or in the critical studies 
by modern scholars of Jewish liturgy. Professor Leon J. Leibreich called these 
puzzling matters to the attention of the present writer but offered no defini- 
tive solution. The conventional explanation is that Rosh HaShanah is, after 
all, only the beginning of the Aseret Y'mei Teshuvah and that the proper oc- 
casion for prayers on this theme is the Day of Atonement, where they indeed 
are found in abundance. There is, in addition, a plethora of prayers on the 
Teshuvah theme in the Selihot ritual, which is recited for a number of days 
prior to Rosh HaShanah, as well as during the Aseret Y'mei Teshuvah. These 
"explanations," however, only deepen the mystery of why Rosh HaShanah, 
as the first of the Ten Days of Penitence, was not provided— from the very 
first— with prayers that specifically dealt with the concept of Teshuvah. 

It is a paradox that calls for a solution. Liebreich, in his classic analysis of 
the Rosh HaShanah liturgy, 34 pointed out the conservative nature of classical 
Jewish prayer. Only those religious ideas that had, over a long period of time, 
gained universal acceptance were incorporated into the normative liturgy. 
Thus, for example, the conception of Rosh HaShanah as commemorating the 
creation of the world and as a day of judgment involving life-and-death deci- 
sions for mankind is already mentioned, as we have seen, in the Mishnah and 
Tosefta. Yet the earliest references to these ideas in the foundation-prayers 
of Rosh HaShanah are not found until the third century, when Rav (or his 
School) composed the prayer, Atah Zokher. 35 The present writer suggests this 
explanation: The idea that Rosh HaShanah is a proper occasion for Teshuvah 
did not gain universal acceptance early enough to be explicitly incorporated 
into the foundation-prayers of Rosh HaShanah as formulated in the Talmudic 
period. It remained for the poets of the Synagogue (payyetanim) to repair 
this deficiency. 

34 See Leon J. Liebreich, "Aspects of the New Year Liturgy" HUCA, XXXIV (1963), 
especially p. 176. In the addenda to that monograph, Liebreich effectively refuted as 
unhistorical and uncritical the thesis of M. H. Segal, in his "The Religion of Israel Be- 
fore Sinai", JQR, LIII (January 1963), that these conceptions of Rosh HaShanah date 
from First Temple times and that the Synagogue liturgy for the New Year is the direct 
descendant of the older liturgy of the Temple during the period of the First Common- 
wealth. Cf. above, n. 14. 

35 See Kieval, pp. 158-160. 


The Liturgical Influence of Rosh HaShanah upon Yom Kippur 

It is clear from the above that Yom Kippur exerted a dominant influence on 
the theological development of Rosh HaShanah. On the other hand, liturgical 
influences flowed primarily in the opposite direction, from Rosh HaShanah 
to Yom Kippur. The preeminent Talmudist of his time, Louis Ginzberg, 
analyzed this process in great detail, citing many examples, and we quote 
here only his summary statement: "We have any number of prayers on Yom 
Kippur which originally were established for Rosh HaShanah only." 36 He at- 
tributes this phenomenon primarily to the fact that the great fast day never 
entirely lost its original character as a festival day of joyousness, similar to 
Rosh HaShanah — as the Torah indicates by listing them both side-by-side 
with the joyous festivals of Pesah, Shavuot and Sukkot in the Festal Calendar 
of Leviticus, chapter 23. Ginzberg cites, in this connection, a Genizah frag- 
ment of the Kedushat Ha-Yorn benediction for Yom Kippur which includes 
the words: va-titen lanu — mo'adim l-simhah — l-simhah u-Vyom-tov, that is, 
"You (God) have given us festivals for joy... for joy and for a holiday". The 
foundation-prayers of Rosh HaShanah, which were deemed particularly 
appropriate for Yom Kippur, were the three Malkhut prayers: U-v'khen ten 
pahdekha, Aleinu (in all the Rites known to us) and Melokh al kol ha-olam 
(only in the Sephardic, Persian, and Yemenite Rites). But there were other 
prayers borrowed from the Rosh HaShanah Amidah, with the result that the 
Yom Kippur Amidah bears a remarkable resemblance in all Rites to that of 
the New Year. 37 

The chief distinction between them is the Viddui, confession of sins, 
which is added to the Amidah only on the Day of Atonement. Furthermore, 
in the course of time, the Yom Kippur liturgy— especially in the Ashkenazic 
Rite— appropriated not only elements from the statutory foundation-prayers, 
but even some of the optional piyyutim. 38 

36 Ginzberg, Vol. IV, pp. 232 ff, especially p. 258. 

37 E.g., the eulogy, Ha-melekh ha-kadosh; the phrase melekh ( al kol ha-aretz (in 
the Kedushat ha-Yom andHaftarah benedictions); the U-v'khen group and the Me- ein 
Zikhronot interpolations in each Amidah; and Aleinu in the Musaf (although neither 
Amram nor Saadiah record this practice, except for one manuscript of Amrams Seder). 
Mention should also be made of Ya-'aleh v-yavo, which originated as a zikkaron-type 
prayer for Rosh HaShanah (see Liebreich, above, n. 34, pp. 125 ff.) The Sephardic, Per- 
sian, and Yemenite Rites for Yom Kippur also borrow the main body of the Kedushat 
Ha-Yom prayer used on Rosh HaShanah, viz., Melokh ( al kol ha-olam, etc. On the 
appropriation of other prayers originally intended for Rosh HaShanah, see Tzvi Karl, 
Mehkarim be-Toledot ha-Tefillah (Tel Aviv: Twersky, 1950), p. 120, n. 128. 

38 E.g., L-'El brekh din, Ha-ohez b-yad middat mishpat, U-netaneh tokef. Karl, 


On the other hand, none of the piyyutim of Yom Kippur appear in the 
liturgy of Rosh HaShanah! These influences and borrowings notwithstand- 
ing, the liturgy of Yom Kippur is quite unique and distinct from that of Rosh 
HaShanah; even in the text of the Amidah, there are appropriate changes, 
notably in the Kedushat Ha-Yom benediction. 39 On the negative side, the 
order of service on the Day of Atonement omits such major elements of the 
Rosh HaShanah liturgy as the crucial Malkhuyot-Zikhronot-Shofarot section; 
and the entire Shofar-sounding ritual — except for a symbolic blast sounded 
to signal the conclusion of the fast (this sounding has no organic relationship 
to the Shofar rite of Rosh HaShanah). On the positive side, the Yom Kippur 
liturgy features major rituals and prayers entirely unknown to the prayers of 
the New Year: the Kol Nidre ceremony; the Selihot and Viddui prayers, which 
are inserted into each service during the twenty-four hour ritual; the Avo- 
dah rite in the Musaf service; and the entire Ne'ilah service, which is recited 
only once a year as the concluding worship of Yom Kippur. Furthermore, 
all the Torah readings and Haftarot of the Day of Atonement are unique to 
it. Finally— aside from the relatively few popular piyyutim borrowed from 
Rosh HaShanah to which we have already alluded — the Yom Kippur liturgy 
is richly endowed with its own treasury of Synagogal poetry, each historical 
Rite having its own particular favorites. 

Since there are no special home ceremonies mandated for Yom Kippur, the 
entire day being set aside for fasting and prayer in the Synagogue, it is inevitable 
that the worship should have been extended far beyond ordinary limits. The 
inordinate length of the worship for the great fast day was already proverbial 
in early Rabbinic literature. 40 By the Geonic period, the worship became so 
lengthy and the congregation, often reinforced by worshippers from neigh- 
boring villages, so unfamiliar even with the sequence of the prayers, that the 
Reader on occasion had to take time out to instruct the congregation in the 

ibid, includes in this category the ancient piyyut, Odyizkor lanu ahavat etan, which 
has special reference to the first day of the seventh month, as mentioned in Nehemiah 
8: 10, ki kadosh ha-yom la-Adoneinu. 

39 For a detailed listing of the variations in the text of the foundation-prayers for 
Yom Kippur, see the commentary Tikkun Tefillah in Siddur Otzar ha-Tefillot, ed. A. 
L. Gordon, vol II (Vilna: Romm, 1928), pp. 1109 ff. Cf. Ze'ev Yawitz, Sefer Mekor ha- 
Berakhot (Berlin, 1910), p. 39. 

40 Tosefta Berakhot 1: 6, ed. Lieberman, p. 3; ibid. 3: 6, p. 13. Cf. Megillah 23a, 
Berakhot 31a and Avodah Zarah 8a. Cf. Soferim 19: 6, ed. Higger, p. 328, which dis- 
tinguishes the prayers of both Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur from all others. 


general liturgy of Yom Kippur, as we learn from a Geonic responsum. 41 The 
earliest reference to the use of a written text for worship is found, interestingly, 
in connection with the prayers of Yom Kippur. R. Yehudai Gaon of Sura (died 
763) permitted the Reader to recite the lengthy and unfamiliar liturgy for the 
Day of Atonement from a written text. On all other occasions, however, the 
prayers were to retain the oral form that had characterized Jewish worship 
from time immemorial. 42 

Hayyim (Herman) Kieval (1920-1991) was ordained by the Jewish Theological 
Seminary in 1942, and left an extensive legacy there as a scholar and teacher, and 
at Temple Israel in Albany, New York as a pulpit rabbi and innovator He devel- 
oped a new format for familiarizing worshipers with the weekly Torah portion 
through questions, discussions and answers between aliyot Over the years many 
other American rabbis adopted the idea, and a disproportionately large number 
of young people from his synagogue went on to become rabbis, cantors and educa- 
tors, largely due to his influence. A prolific writer, especially on liturgy, his major 
interest was the High Holy Days. Book One on Rosh HaShanah appeared in 1959, 
and in 1 977 he received a doctorate in Hebrew Letters for his Thesis on The Evening 
Service of Yom Kippur. That historical study formed the basis for Book Two, Kol 
Nidre Night, which was published along with a reprint of Book One in 2004— two 
volumes in one. 

This article is excerpted with permission from the latter publication, The High 
Holy Days: A Commentary on the Prayerbook of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kip- 
pur by Hayyim Herman Kieval, second edition, edited by David Golinkin and 
Monique Susskind Goldberg (The Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem, 
2004, pp. 229-238, 315-318). [Footnote 6 in square brackets was added by David 
Golinkin.] The book may be ordered by Journal readers— at a special price— from 

41 Teshuvot ha-Geonim, ed. Assaf (Jerusalem, 1942), pp. 88 ff. See also Sheriras 
responsum in B. M. Lewin, Otzarha-Geonim, I, Part 1, p. 58. For a survey of the expan- 
sion of the Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur liturgy in Geonic times, see Salo Baron, 
A Social and Religious History of the Jews, vol. VII (Philadelphia, 1958), pp. 72, 79. 

42 See Louis Ginsburg, Geonica, vol. I (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 
1909), pp. 119 ff. 


The Kol Nidre-At Least 1200 Years Old 
by Johanna Spector 

Jews everywhere usher in the Day of Atonement with the chanting of Kol 
Nidre, surely the most famous of all Jewish prayers. Its eloquent melody is 
not only a fitting setting of that holiest of Yom Kippur texts, it is also music 
that has caught the very essence of the Jewish soul and spirit. 

I could therefore never understand why some authorities should suspect 
the Kol Nidre melody of having a non- Jewish origin. In his thorough investi- 
gations, Abraham Zvi Idelsohn 1 analyzed the Kol Nidre as follows. (Example 




















r r r r r r r 



#^J. I J- i 


h r m i ^rra ^ 



a in — — — n 



t3 I 3 1 














Example 1. Idelsohn s Analysis of Kol Nidre Motives 

1 "Der Juedische Tempelgesang," in Guido Adler, ed., Handbuch der Musikge- 
schichte, Vol. I, p. 152. 


The introduction can be found in Spanish folk song of the 16 th century. 2 
Idelsohn attempts to show that while motives I, II, III and IV are taken from 
the ancient Jewish cantillations and the Coda is modern, the introduction is 
foreign. But the introduction is what makes the Kol Nidre! Every Jew knows 
and loves the introduction, even if he or she does not remember what melodic 
motives follow after it. And this whole section should not be Jewish? 

While studying the cantillations of the Hebrew Bible, I came across the 
French-Sephardic performance tradition for the first passage of Genesis: 
B'reishit bara Elohim et ha-shamayim v'et ha'arets. The melody was notated 
by Samuel Naumbourg in his Receuil de chants religieux (1847). Here are the 
openings of Kol Nidre and the French-Sephardic cantillation for B'reishit 
Bara Elohim... (Example 2.) 




W (H-ff 

m i J - m 







m j i j j. p 

Example 2. Naumbourgs notation of French-Sephardic cantillation for B'reishit Bara 
Elohim compared to opening of Kol Nidre. 

The tune seemed familiar, but I could not place it immediately. While 
thinking hard, it occurred to me that it strongly resembled the opening mo- 
tives of Kol Nidre. At first I compared the French-Sephardic tune with the 
equivalent Babylonian (Baghdadi) nusah or chant pattern for the same text. 
The similarity was striking. (Example 3,) 

2 Canco de Pandero, in the Calle Catalogue, Pedrell Edition, No. 267. Bar I is 
the motif of the cantillation ta'am (trope) Sof-pasuk; II— of Tevir; III— of Etnahta in 
the Prophetic mode; and IV— of Darga in the mode of Esther. The Coda consists of 
passages in the style of the 18 th century. 





a .. nppna 



}J I J. 

b'-rei - shit 


lo- him 







Au uppna 


ha - sha - ma - yim 



v' - et ha - a - rets 

$ j J J iJ i iJ j i iJ j 








v'-ha - a 

hay - ta 

to - hu etc., 

&' J- J- J J li 




Example 3. Comparison ofBaghdadi and French-Sephardic cantillation for B'reishit 
Bara Elohim 

One notices that the Tipp'ha, Etnahta, Sof-pasuk, Revi a and Pashta 3 use 
the same intervals, and except for Pashta, the same finalis. The only difference 
between the French-Sephardic and Babylonian Nusah is the employment of 
the half-step interval in France, and the whole-step interval in Babylonia (E# 
instead of E). But even this difference is not certain, since Middle Easterners 
are not very precise in their intervals; nor is our modern musical notation 
sufficiently accurate for putting down non-Western musical patterns. There 
is no proof whatsoever that the ancient Babylonian Jews did not use the same 
half-steps. On the contrary; I happened to come across a melody recorded 
by Idelsohn in his Thesaurus? a melody for chanting Proverbs 1:1-4, which 
employs these mentioned half-steps. The melody is from the Jewish com- 
munity in Baghdad early in the 20 th century. 


joi i j j i \ i 




Example 4. Baghdadi melody for chanting Proverbs, notated by Idelsohn 

3 Five (of twenty-eight) written signs for chanting Books of the Hebrew Bible. 

4 Vol. II, p. 137, W. 1938a. 


This melody not only bears the mood of French-Sephardic Torah 
cantillation, but is reminiscent of the Kol Nidre chant. Here we have — 
combined — elements of all three melodies. 






B' -rei-shit 



ha - sha - ma - yim 

Example 5. Elements of all three melodies combined 

But it is not enough to show Kol Nidre and Babylonian Torah cantillations 
are linked in purely musical terms. There has to be an historical linkage as 
well. It is not mere coincidence that the public chanting of B'reishit bara 
Elohim... in both French-Sephardic and Babylonian practice bears a likeness 
to Kol Nidre. It is also well known that Sephardic pronunciation of Hebrew 
is the continuation of Babylonian- Jewish pronunciation thousands of years 
ago. Ashkenazic pronunciation of Hebrew, contrarily, follows the ancient 
custom of the Land of Israel. Additionally, we know that the bulk of the Jews 
from Babylonia migrated to Spain, from which place the Sephardic nusah 
was carried to France after the expulsion of 1492. Therefore, it is no wonder 
that the cantillation of the Bible, and with it the melody oiB'reishit bara ... 
remained the same in France as it had been in Babylonia. No wonder, also, 
that a Babylonian melody for chanting the opening verses of Proverbs should 
contain motives of Babylonian Torah cantillation. But where does the Kol 
Nidre fit? What does it have to do with B'reishit? 

Evidence for the use of Kol Nidre in Babylonia is presented in the Ginzei 
Schechter edited by Louis Ginzberg. 5 There we find a statement by Paltoi Gaon 
that Kol Nidre was recited by popular demand in the Geonic Academy at the 
Babylonian city of Pumbadita long before the practice was introduced to the 
larger and better-known Academy at Sura, where it had been deprecated as a 
"foolish custom" by Natronai Gaon in the mid-9 th century. Nonetheless, the 
Seder (Order of Prayers) of his successor, Amram Gaon, in 870, includes the 
complete text of Kol Nidre, largely in Hebrew, rather than the Aramaic that 
has come down to us. An 8 th -century ban on Kol Nidres recitation, by Yehu- 
dai Gaon of Sura, 6 establishes the existence of the Kol Nidre text at least as 

5 New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Vol II, 1929: 120. 

6 H. Tikochinsky. Takkanot ha-Geonim (Tel- Aviv— Jerusalem, 1940), p. 99. 


far back as then — and most probably a century earlier in Pumbadita. In Der 
Juedische Gottesdienst, 7 Ismar Elbogen writes the following: 

In the Babylonian academies the opening section of B'reishit was 
recited — by heart — during the Minhah service of Yom Kippur afternoon. 
[In the 10 th century] Saadyah Gaon still mentions the custom of reading 
the opening verses of Genesis on Yom Kippur— but during Ne'ilah. After 
his time, however, the practice was discontinued. 

Later generations do not know anything about this custom. Yet, the Roman 
Catholic Church retained the tradition of reading from Genesis on its highest 
fast day. 8 We learn from the above passages that exilic Jewish communities at 
the end of the First Millennium must have been very familiar with the can- 
tillating tune of B'reishit bara Elohirn..., since it had to be recited by heart, 
twice, on the Day of Yom Kippur. It is not surprising, then, that the melody 
attached to the cantillation of B'reishit and associated with the most important 
day of the year became part of the melodic repertoire of Yom Kippur, and 
likewise, that it should be adapted for a text that was finally being accepted in 
all quarters despite rabbinic opposition: Kol Nidre. The most popular prayer 
in Jewish life grew out of the melodic patterns of ancient Torah cantillation, 
which only proves that contemporary Jews are still linked with their ances- 
tors who lived and flourished in Babylonia 1200 years ago! 

Johanna Spector is Professor Emeritus of Ethnomusicolgy at the Jewish Theological 
Seminary's College of Jewish Music, where she taught for over three decades. Born 
in Latvia, she arrived in the United States as a teenager after World War II, having 
been trained as a concert pianist and bearing a state diploma from the Akademie 
fur Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Vienna. She enrolled at Hebrew Union Col- 
lege in Cincinnati, completed the rabbinical program and graduated as a Doctor of 
Hebrew Studies. As a research fellow at Hebrew University in Jerusalem she retraced 
the path taken decades earlier by Abraham Idelsohn and Robert Lachmann in 
recording — this time on film — the music of Jews from Yemen, Iran, Morocco, Tunisia, 
Djerba, Libya, Egypt, Turkey, Greece and Bukhara who had resettled in Israel. She 
wrote this article for the Jewish Music Notes (now-defunct monthly publication of 
the National Jewish Welfare Board), October 1950. 

7 Frankfurt: Kaufmann, 1931: 167. 

8 S. Rahif. Mittellungen des Septuagintaunternehmens zu alttestamentlichen 
Lectionen der griechischen Kirche (Goettingen, Koenigl: Gesellschaft der Wissen- 
schaften), 1915. 


Ad Yom Moto: Life's a Game? 

by Gershon Freidlin 

Yidl,fidl, shmidl — dos lebn iz a shpas. 

(from the song, Yidl Mitn Fidl — 
music: A. Ellstein, lyrics: I. Manger) 

Molly Picon sang that "Life is a shpas"— & joke, a trifle, and why not also, "a 
game?" As in "gaming," "gambling?" 

Lets say that you — also I — are a pit of slime, a cesspool, if you prefer. But, 
by lifelong, hyper- attentive rolling of the dice, the human being can de-slime 
himself, can end up a hero-golem rather than a turd. This, by playing the game 
of striving for a Good Name. 

With the same sentiment, dear Cantor, do you infuse us each Yom Kip- 
pur A.M. as in the Amidah you intone 

Ad yom moto t'-hakeh lo li-tshuvah... 
Till the day of our death do You wait, 
that we might repent, 



<• J- tt ia ym £p i jjtj J ?Ji J %Trr^-ni a 


t' ha-keh lo_ 

_lit-shu-vah. F - han-to - to_ 

lit -hi - yah. 

Example 1. Meshullam hen Kalonymus Ad yom moto, (1091), BaerNo. 1375 

then follow it with 

Enosh, mah yizkeh? U-tsva dok lo zaku b'~einekha\ 
If the Heavenly Hosts can barely be pure, 
what hope is there for us Lowlies! 

^} \ jj^j m^$ 



E - nosh mah_ yiz-keh. u-ts' 

dok lo za 


ku b'-ei-ne 







him im tiv' - ar eish, 



Example 2. Meshullam hen Kalonymus Enosh mah yizkeh, after Weisgal (Levine 
2006, No. 3) 


kui ' kha ho-shekh k' - mo 

3 iT\ 



mm, n i l* 


m' sho- teit kol_ b' 





■ I J J J. 7 

a-yin.Dira - t' - kha_ba-sei - ter, u-g'-lu-yotl' kha kol nis - ta - rot. 

Example 2. Continued 

You conclude by repeating the refrain, "Till the day of our death, do You wait, 
that we might repent ." In between you tell us where we are really at. 

Lest we fall forever into despair, at the climax of this piyyut (the so- 
called M'hayyeh of a 10-part K'rovah), our medieval colleague and teacher, 
Meshullam ben Kalonymus of Rome, tells us how to climb out: 

Sheim tov yikneh 

Work incessantly at acquiring a Good Name. 

Does this approach work? I'm not sure that anyone knows for sure. I can 
speak of those for whom it surely could NOT work — you can probably think 
of your own exceptions, too. 

Such as, those born into an incurably foul Ghetto where the chances are 
slight, of setting one's soul above: incessant danger; poor health, nutrition and 
education; TV messages; despondent, enraged and hopeless family members 
and neighbors; plus the likelihood of growing up to expect jail time. 

Without free and safe moments to contemplate reaching up for a Good 
Name, it is unlikely that there is a way to achieve it. Atop the anxiety we all 
feel for being ever-mortal, the terror a Ghetto-human must feel gives him 
no space to develop soul enough to place a Good Name at the top of his wish 
list. Thus, if so many are already presumed excluded from the "bourgeois" 
pursuit of the Good Name, what does Reb Meshulam really offer? Less than 
a pair of Adidas sneakers! 

Not so fast: any consolation has its limits. The heartiest, sincere "Good 
morning!" said to someone in a foul enough mood, is less than useless. 
(Compare this to the halakhic etiquette of what— and what not— to say in the 


presence of a mourner.) A good word, Prozac or good advice, works only for 
whom it works. So too, Meshu\lams piyyut. 

Certainly, the text is not meant to lead us into despair deeper than we 
might already be in. Yet, in 1978, 1 coached it to an actor about to perform in 
the Yiddish-language playwright, Jacob Gordin s God, Man and Devil. There, 
the Faust-like lead character placed a noose around his own neck— obvi- 
ously believing that recapturing a good name was out of the question — and 
chanted our piyyut as a stand-up suicide note. Our playwright considered 
his character- in-despair as one beyond the pale of the Good Name club, and 
appropriately, let him draw the noose. 

Whether or not the character s situation was in any way redeem- 
able—hence obviating the need for suicide by going for even a sniff of a Good 
Name— I do not know. 

I, for one, do take comfort in the Enosh Mah Yizkeh (fortunately being 
restored in the latest Conservative mahzor), especially when intoned by a 
good hazzan. 

Rabbi Gershon Freidlin is a member of the Journal's editorial board and a frequent 
contributor. He is affiliated, in Pittsburgh, with JACOB'S DREAM, that prepares 
materials on the arts, urban issues and Jewish lore. He holds a certificate of study 
from long-time Cantors Assembly member, Moshe Taube. 





The Day of Atonement 

by Sampson Raphaelson 

"Wliat Jack Robin needs" said David Lee, who owns some of the whitest of 
Broadway s white lights, "is a wife." 

"What our Jakie needs," said Jack Robins father, old Cantor Rabinowitz, of 
the Hester Street Synagogue, "is a God" 

"What I need," said Jack Robin, "is a song-number with a kick in it. The junk 
that Tin Pan Alley is peddling these days is rusty— that's all— rusty" 

And the sum and substance of it was a sober- faced Jack, engaged fitfully in 
experiments with pleasure, a worried but watchful David Lee, and a tragically 
lonely household on Hester Street, where dwelt the aged cantor and his wife. 
For Jack was no ordinary singer of ragtime. Those dark eyes of his might have 
been the ecstatic eyes of a poet in the days when the Chosen People lived 
sedately in the land of Canaan. They might have been prophetic eyes, stern 
and stirring, in the years of Zedekiah, son of Josiah, King of Judah, when Je- 
rusalem "knew not its God." They might have been deep wells of lamentation 
even one generation ago had his lyric voice been born to cry the sorrows of 
Israel in a Russian synagogue. 

But he lived in New York, and his slender, well-set-up figure was draped in 
perfectly fitting suits of Anglo-Saxon severity, and his dark hair was crisply 
trimmed and parted after the fashion of young America, and the black eyes 
in his thin, handsome face were restless, cynical and without joy. . . It had long 
been a matter of profound distress to the cantor that a youth with so nimble a 
mind should be so diffident in the presence of the great culture of the noblest 
of all peoples. For ten generations, in Russia and now in America, the name 
"Rabinowitz" had stood for devout, impassioned Khazonus, and Jakie s father 
was animated by the one desire that his son should become even a greater 
cantor than himself. 

"I can see it comes a day when the Children of Israel will need it more 
Khazonim? 'the old father had said once to his young son. "It s too good here in 
America — too much money, telephones and trains — and too much ragstime. A 


little bit more God ain't a bad thing, Jakie. Music is God's voice, and you make 
it your papa and mamma happy, Jakie, if you grow up to be a great Khazn like 
your grandfather in Vilna, olov hasholom" 

"Aw, gee," Jakie had responded; "I wish the Rebbi would comb his whiskers 
oncet in a while!" 

Fervently considering his God, the cantor had beaten Jakie soberly, and the 
boy had been inclined after that to listen in silence, if with resentment, to his 
pleas and homilies... That night, while his parents slept, Jakie ran away from 
home. A policeman found him, two days later, white with hunger and drag- 
ging his feet with weariness. His parents, who had become panic-stricken, 
overfed him and put him tenderly to bed. In the next few days they argued 
and pleaded with him, and, before they admitted defeat, wept before him. 
"Ill sing in the choir every Sabbath," he said then. "But, honest, pa, honest, 
I'd quicker die than go every day to a Cheider!' 

His father had to find comfort during the several years that followed in 
hearing the liquid golden tones of Jakie s alto voice in the choir only on Sabbath 
and on holy days. "Maybe," he said to his wife, "maybe when he gets older, hell 
see how beautiful is Yiddishkeit Maybe he would stop hanging around music- 
places and singing these ragstime songs what all the bums they sing." 

"I'm afraid, Yossele; I'm afraid," she sighed. "When he grows older, a job 
hell get it — in a tailor shop, maybe — and right away with a girl hell be run- 
ning around." 

"Better he should never marry," the cantor cried, "than with one of these 
peek-a-boo-waist girls with paint on the faces! Oy, Rivka mine, why ain't it 
here in America good healthy girls like you was?" 

But girls were not in Jakie's mind. The few who moved through his life had 
laughed too much and listened too little. They were shrill creatures, made 
for anything but love. They were haughty when they should have been hum- 
bly eager, and they greedily mimicked things they should austerely have left 
alone. He might have sunk to a Russian kind of morbidness if he had not 
been caught up in the stream of highly seasoned folk-song which poured 
constantly from Tin Pan Alley. 

By the time he was eighteen he moved in an unreal, syncopated world 
of his own. If he had a sentimental grief, what better relief than sitting in the 
dark of his bedroom in the tiny Hester Street flat and howling dolefully the 
strains of "Down by the Old Mill Stream"? If the joys of being alive smote him, 


what could more sweetly ease the ache of happiness than the plaintive blare of 
"Alexander's Ragtime Band"? So he haunted the motion-picture shows. Then 
one night he got a job singing popular songs in the Great Alcazar Palace on 
Grand Street — one of the new movie-houses with rococo modeling in front, 
a house penetrating into the bowels of the building to a greater depth than 
its rickety, makeshift predecessors. And later that night his father told him 
never to show his face in the Hester Street home again. 

"Better I shouldn't have it no son at all. Your loafers talk stabs me in my 
heart. I couldn't bear to see your face no more— bum! In a synagogue you 
don't even put your head. For ten generations was every Rabinowitz a God- 
fearing Khazn, and you — my only son — street-songs you are singing! Go! Be 
a ragstime singer with the bums!" 

How could the old cantor, or, for that matter, Jakie himself, understand that 
instead of being sinful and self-indulgent, loose and lazy, this grave-eyed boy 
with the ways of the street was sincerely carrying on the tradition of plain- 
tive, religious melody of his forefathers— carrying on that tragic tradition 
disguised ironically with the gay trappings of Broadway and the rich vulgarity 
of the East Side? Instinctively the East Side responded to it, for people came 
hours early to the Great Alcazar Palace and stood in line twenty deep to hear 
Jakie, now Jack Robin, sing "Lovey Joe" or "'When Dat Midnight Choo-Choo 
Leaves for Alabam!' 

"Chee, but that baby can rag!" they said, as they swayed, hypnotized, to the 
caressing quavers of his voice. They knew only that he caught at their heart- 
strings. They failed to perceive that Jakie was simply translating the age-old 
music of the cantors— that vast loneliness of a race wandering "between two 
worlds, one dead, the other powerless to be born" — into primitive and pas- 
sionate Americanese. 

One year Jakie spent thus, and then David Lee, on a periodical scouting 
expedition, drifted into the Great Alcazar Palace. A short, fat man with cold 
blue eyes in a round pink face, Lee slipped unnoticed into the dark of the last 
row. He heard Jack Robin render "Underneath the Sugar Moon" with swifter, 
more potent tunefulness than a certain black-face comedian whom he was 
paying a thousand a week for singing the same song on Broadway. As a result, 
Jack Robin found himself booked on the great Keats vaudeville circuit... 

Jack saw his parents occasionally. His mother's furtive pride in the adulation 
which younger Hester Street gave to her son had even begun to reflect itself 


in a way in the old cantor. "Every actor he's ain't a loafer, Yossele ," she would 
say. "Look— is Jacob Adler a loafer? A finer man you couldn't find it if you 
should search a whole lifetime." 

"But he's a Yiddisher actor, Leben. He feels the Yiddishe heart. And our 
Jakie sings ragstime — like a Sheigetz!" 

"I know — I know," she soothed him. "But he's an American boy. And he's 
a good boy. He's sending you and me presents only last month from New 
Haven. He lives a clean life, Yossele. Maybe soon he makes enough money 
and he goes into business and gets married and comes regular every Sabbath 
and holy day to the synagogue." 

When he visited them in the summer, Jack's dumb unhappiness became 
apparent to them. They took it for a good sign— for indication of a new, more 
mature thoughtfulness. His booking for the year ended, he took a month's 
vacation and spent two weeks of it in New York. For two consecutive Sabbath 
days he attended the synagogue, and the old cantor, singing from the pulpit, 
exulted in the conviction that his son was returning to his God. 

Indeed, Jack himself found a certain solace in it. As he sat on the old familiar 
wooden bench, clothed in the silk Tallis— the prayer-shawl which his father 
had so solemnly presented to him on the occasion of his Bar Mitzvah— with 
good old Yudelson the cobbler on one side of him, and stout, hearty, red- 
bearded Lapinsky the butcher on the other, he felt a singular warmth and 
sweetness. And the voice of his father, still clear and lyric, rising in the intri- 
cacies of the familiar old lamenting prayers— prayers which he remembered 
perfectly, which he would never forget — the dissonant rumble of response 
from the congregation, the restive shufflings of youngsters — all these were 
to him blessedly familiar and blissful. 

In the murmurous peacefulness of those two weeks his father talked to him 
constantly of the austere beauties of the ancient ways of his people, and it 
began to appear to Jack that there was indeed something to be said for them. 
He could not and did not dismiss his father's world as he used to — with a sneer 
and the words: "Dead! I tell you that stuff's behind the times." For he began 
to feel that if it was a dead or a dying world, still it possessed some reality, an 
orderly nobility; while the world he was alive to was chaotic, crassly unreal. 

During the two weeks which followed in Atlantic City he thought a good 
deal on this, but the nearness of violins and cocktails, the flash of women and 
the glamour of moonlight on the sea made it easy for him to decide arbitrarily 
that it was rather an abstract problem... 


The next Tuesday evening Jack came unexpectedly. As he stepped into the 
spotless little flat, his father, who was sitting before the kitchen table in his 
shirt-sleeves, a skullcap on his white head, reading loudly to himself from the 
Mishnah, looked up mildly over his glasses and spoke the question he must 
have rehearsed scores of times to himself. 

"To a Shiksa you're engaged, am t it?" 

Jack hesitated. The calmness of his father he sensed at once as being anything 
but indifference. He suddenly was swept with shame for not having thought 
more about what his engagement would mean to them. 

The old man had turned back to the Mishnah. Apparently, Jacks hesitation 
had replied adequately. And now his mother came into the kitchen from the 
narrow, dark corridor of the tenement. Jack kissed her wrinkled cheek. It was 
the first time in years that he had kissed her, and it thrilled the old woman. 
But in a moment she had observed the portentous absorption of her husband 
in his book of the Talmud. 

" Yossele, don't you see our Jakie is here?" 

The cantor continued with the low- murmured singsong as if he had not 
heard her. She turned to Jack, who gave her a queer smile and an almost 
imperceptible shrug of the shoulders. 

"Then it's a Shiksa?" she whispered. Briskly she moved to the kitchen, 
stove. "You'll stay for supper, Jakie?" she asked over her shoulder. "Sit down. 
I'll have it quick ready. The soup is already on the stove — Borsht, red-beets 
soup, Jakie— and tonight we got it cucumbers in sour cream, and cheese 
Blintzes, too." 

The old cantor joined them at the table, but beyond the various ritual prayers 
he and Jack mumbled together, he did not utter a word. The old woman, 
pathetically striving to eke out some harmony from the situation, made not 
the slightest attempt to get Jack to talk of his fiancee. 

"You are coming to the synagogue next Sabbath?" 

"I'm sorry, ma. I'm going to be terribly busy. You see, this is my one big 
chance. Lee has been fine, and it's up to me to repay him. He's one of these men 
who doesn't do things half-way. Either he backs you to the limit or he drops 
you. He's watching me closely, and I have to prove I can be relied upon. He's 
not giving me a star part, but I'm a principal, and if I make a hit, I'll rise fast 


with David Lee. This is the first time, ma, that my future has meant anything 
to me, and I'm going to give all I have to rehearsals ." 

When the meal was cleared off the table, the old cantor moved with his 
tome to the smaller kitchen table, where he went on with his low- toned rec- 
itative of the Talmud. Jack and his mother sat in silence at the larger table. 
Then Jack placed his hand tenderly over hers. 

"Ma, its a funny thing, but I'm just beginning to appreciate what you and 
pa mean to me. I never realized it until suddenly last week. I — " 

"Do you hear what our Jakie is saying, Yossele? He's saying that now he's 
grown up and he knows how good it is a papa and a mamma. He's say- 

It was as if the old man had not heard. 

They talked on softly, rapidly at first, exchanging ideas and comments, and 
then peaceful silences crept between them. After a rather long pause in the 
talk, his mother said, with a casual air: 

"You know, Jakie, I was just thinking the other day— I was thinking that if 
a Yiddishe girl marries a Goyisher boy, then its bad, because you know how 
it is in a house — everything is like the father wants. But if a Yiddisher boy 
marries a Goyishe girl, then it ain't so terrible. She could be learned to buy 
Kosher meat and to have two kinds of dishes, for Fleischige and for Milchige— 
and the children could be brought up like Yiddishe children; they could be 
sent to a Cheider—l was just thinking like this only yesterday, Jakie. Ain't it 
funny I should think of it?" 

Jack's hand tightened over hers. 

"You're sweet, ma," he said slowly. "I'm afraid it can't be. I was brought up 
that way, ma, and I've been unhappy all my life. And Amy was brought up 
the other way, and she's been happy from the day she was a baby. I'll want my 
children to be happy like Amy is." 

The sharp sound of a book snapping shut twisted their attention to the can- 
tor. He had risen, and, eyes, blazing, was pointing a shaking finger at Jack. 

"Go out!" he cried. "Go out from my house — bum! Go!" A fit of coughing 
seized him, and he sank to his chair. They hastened to his side. The old man 
was unable to speak, but his eyes glared so that Jack stepped back. His mother 
turned, tragic-eyed, to him and said, 

"Maybe you better go, Jakie." 


There are few tasks more absorbing and exacting than that of rehearsing for 
the "Frivolities ," and the days that followed for Jack were so full that he found 
time only to telephone his mother. As there was no connection directly to 
the flat on Hester Street, Jack had to call the drug store on the corner. He 
succeeded in getting her but twice in the five times he called. His father was 
well, she told him cheerfully, but naturally getting old and feeble. She doubted 
whether he would be able to continue as cantor for very many more years, 
but thanked God that he would be able to lead in the services for the coming 
holy day, Yom Kippur — the Day of Atonement. "Maybe you will come to the 
synagogue then, and fast the whole day?" she asked wistfully. 

"Ma, I don t see how I can possibly come. It's the fifteenth, and our show 
opens on Broadway the same evening. I — I'd give anything, ma, to be able to 
come. I'd do it for my own sake as well as for papa's and yours. Its beginning 
to mean something to me— Yom Kippur. You see how it is, don t you, ma?" 

"Yes," his mother sighed; "I see." 

The second time, she brought up the subject again. 

"Your papa he's ain't feeling so good, Jakie. Maybe this will be his last Yom 
Kippur. He talks about you. He is all the time talking about you. He says God 
has punished him enough for his sins that he should be the last Rabinowitz 
in ten generations to sing Khazonus in a ShuL He don't say you should come 
on Yom Kippur — he didn't talk about that. But I think in his heart he means 
it, Jakie." 

"I'll tell you what I'll do, ma," he replied, after some thought. "We open 
Monday night, and there probably will be a lot of changes made in the special 
rehearsal on Tuesday. But I'll try to dodge that Tuesday rehearsal and come 
to the synagogue for the morning and most of the afternoon." 

"You're a good boy, Jakie"... 


At three in the afternoon, Jack, in his suite at the family hotel on Seventy- 
ninth Street, was busily writing a letter to Amy, who was in Salt Lake City. He 
had taken a hot bath, intending to sleep off some of his nervousness after this 
note to his sweetheart. He finished the letter and had just sunk beneath the 
covers of his bed when the telephone-bell rang. It was old Chayim Yudelson, 
friend and neighbor of his parents, to tell him that his father had just died. 

When Jack's taxi-cab drew up before his home in Hester Street; a harassed 
policeman was swinging his club in the effort to disperse the crowd in front 


of the tenement where the beloved cantor lay dead. Jack elbowed his way 
through. He was recognized, and a pathway was instantly made for him. 

In the tiny flat were his mother, the Shammes of the synagogue, old Khayim 
Yudelson and his wife, and Lawyer Feldman, the friend of all Hester Street. 
Greater perhaps than her grief at the loss of the man who had loved her and 
his God with equal fervor for sixty years was Mrs. Rabinowitz 's panic at the 
thought that it was Yom Kippur eve and that the lyric voice of a Rabinowitz 
would not be raised in supplication to wipe out the sins of the Chosen People 
before their Creator. When Jack crowded his way through the friends and 
neighbors who packed the dark, narrow corridor, she was clinging to the 
hand of Lawyer Feldman. 

"Look, Mr. Feldman," she was saying; "its only two hours to Yom Kippur. 
It's got to be a good Khazn to sing. The last words my Yossele he said to me, 
he said, 'Rivka, get our Jakie.' So low he says it, Mr. Feldman, I couldn't hardly 
hear him. His face was white like a Yahrtzeit candle, and he says to me: 'Rivka, 
God will forgive our Jakie if he will sing "Kol Nidre" for me tonight. Maybe 
my dying,' he says, will make a Khazn from our Jakie. Tell him, Rivka,' he 
says. Look, Mr. Feldman; Jakie is maybe coming here. Maybe you could talk 
to him. In his heart he's a good boy. Tell him — tell him — his father is dead — 
tell him — oh, Mr. Feldman, my heart is breaking in pieces — I — I can't talk no 
more " 

"Here's Jakie!" Khayim Yudelson broke in. 

The next moment his mother was in his arms. Lawyer Feldman drew her 
gently away, and she turned into the other room — the bedroom where her 
dead husband lay. Silence followed. Nervously Jack went after her, fearing 
that silence. 

It was an immaculately clean room — so clean that every rip in the wallpaper, 
every stain on the plastered ceiling stared at them, hollow-eyed, terrible in 
nakedness. The bed, a thing of iron tubing, whose green paint had long since 
scaled off, stood head against an ancient oak bookcase, crammed with old- 
fashioned mahogany-colored books of the Talmud, the Khumesh, the various 
prayer-books, and a mass of huge music portfolios filled with note-scribbled 
sheets. On the bed lay his father's body. It had been covered completely with 
a white sheet, but his mother, flung across it, had drawn the sheet off so that 
the wax-like face and one thin old shoulder were revealed. Jack looked long 
at his father's face. It was beautiful in death. Every line in it spoke of a brave, 
poetic fight, of deep, fierce religious faith. His mother's body shuddered, and 
Jack reached over to take her hand. 


She rose from the bed then, and son and mother stood alone. 

"I— I came as soon as I— heard," Jack said. 

His mother's hand rested lightly against his coat. 

"He — he died this morning. It was a quarter to twelve. Yesterday he got sick. 
He talked about you— all the time about you, Jakie. At a quarter to twelve he 
died— a quarter to twelve. He just closed his eyes— like a baby, Jakie— and he 
said — he said: 'Rivka,' he said, 'God will forgive our Jakie if he will sing "Kol 
Nidre" tor me tonight. Maybe,' he said, 'maybe — maybe — 'Oh, Jakie, I — Jakie, 
mein Kindt, your father is dead— I can t stand it—" 

She was again in his arms. Lawyer Feldman appeared in the doorway. 

"Better take her out of that room," he suggested: "It isn't doing her any good. 
Has she spoken to you about—" 

Jack nodded. He gently led his mother toward the kitchen. As they passed 
him, the lawyer asked in a low tone, 

"Are you going to do it?" 

Jack placed his mother in a chair, where she sat blankly, looking first at the 
friends gathered in the kitchen, then out of the window where the crowds 
were still pushing and surging noisily, and then, in a most pathetic and forlorn 
way, down at her hands folded so helplessly in her lap. 

The Shammes, who was there, mainly for the purpose of finding out whether 
Jack would serve as cantor that evening and the next day or whether he would 
have to step into the breach himself, was becoming nervous and impatient. 
He approached Jack, who looked unseeingly at him. 

It was four- thirty. If he appeared in the show that evening, singing ragtime 
songs while his father lay dead— while the Hester Street Synagogue went 
cantorless for the first Day of Atonement in forty years — while his mother 
struggled under an unbearable double grief 

He turned to the Shammes. 

"My father's Tallis, it is at the synagogue?" 

"Yes; everything is in the Shul, Mr. Rabinowitz," the Shammes replied 

"The tunes— the Genigen— of the choir— are they the same my father used 
ten, fifteen years ago?" 

"The same Genigen, exactly." 

"All right. I'll be there at six o'clock." 


As Jack took his mother in his arms to sit out the next hour with her and to 
comfort her, the tears for the first time since her husband died flowed from 
her eyes, and she said over and over to him: "In your heart you re a good boy. 
I always told him that in your heart you re a good boy" 


News travels like lightning in the East Side. "Jack Robin — the vaudeville 
headliner— is singing as cantor at the Hester Street Synagogue this Yom Kip- 
pur!" It might have been a newspaper scare headline, for by six-thirty that 
evening the slowly arriving members of the Hester Street Synagogue congre- 
gation had almost to fight their way through the mob that packed the street 
up to the corners of both Norfolk and Essex Streets. Wealthy East Siders, 
who had paid their ten and twelve dollars for pews in the much larger Beth 
Medresh Hagadol, neglected that comparatively splendid house of prayer to 
stand in the crammed lobby of the Hester Street Synagogue and listen to the 
golden notes of this young singer of ragtime. As he rendered "KolNidre" with 
a high, broken sobbing which, they insisted critically, surpassed his father s 
in his best days. 

Every twist and turn of his fathers had been branded unforgettably in 
Jack's memory from childhood days, but he sang the grief-laden notes with 
a lyric passion that was distinctly his own. The low-hanging rafters of the 
old synagogue, the cheap, shiny chandeliers of painted gold, the faded vel- 
vet hangings on the holy vault where the parchments of the Old Testament 
stood, the gold-fringed, worn white-silk cloth that covered the stand in the 
pulpit where he prayed— these called to something surging and powerful in 
him, something which made his whole life since his boyhood seem blurred 
and unreal. 

When, with the congregation standing and swaying in humility before 
their Creator, he uttered that refrain which asks forgiveness for every sin 
of mankind from evil thoughts to murder, rising from a low singsong into a 
quivering, majestic wail and then breaking into incoherent plaintiveness, the 
sobs choked his throat. 

His mother sat in the small gallery at the back reserved for women, and he 
saw her when, after marching slowly forward with the choir, he had flung open 
the hangings before the holy vault and turned to face the congregation as he 
led in the appeal that the "prayers of this evening shall come before the Divine 
Presence in the morning and by nightfall bring redemption for all sins." 

When he finished the high melodious strains of this triumphant yet humble 
and supplicating piece, there was a low murmur of approbation throughout 


the synagogue. The rabbi, a rotund little man in the front pews, turned to 
his neighbor and remarked: "Even Rosenblatt, when I heard him in Moscow, 
didn't give a 'Yaaleh' like this. Aza Zingen nehmt by die Hartz!" 

When the time came for Kaddish, the prayer uttered only by those in 
mourning their dead, the whole congregation rose in silence in honor of the 
cantor who was dead and his son and wife. The other mourners subdued their 
customary loud recital, and the voices of Jack and his mother, the one flowing 
and resonant, the other high and broken with sobs, were heard clearly. Crowds 
followed the couple as they slowly walked the half-block to the tenement- 
house that evening. As they paused on the stoop, Jack turned to the gathering 
people and in a low voice asked them to be good enough to leave his mother 
and himself alone with their grief. Instantly a cry was raised: 

"Beat it!" 

"Go home, bums, loafers! Am t you got no respect for the Khazn?" 

"Gwan! Cant you leave some peace be even on Yom Kippur—Paskud- 

The crowd dispersed. 

Jack sat up until midnight that night with his mother, and then, completely 
weary, he fell asleep, to dream fitfully of Amy and of David Lee, of David Lee 
and of Amy, until morning. 


David Lee slept fitfully also that night. Jack's failure at the last moment to 
appear on the opening night had ruined three numbers and had made two 
others awkward, and Lee had a difficult job ahead of him in the next twenty- 
four hours. He wasted no time thinking about the delinquent. "He's going to 
do the worrying, not me," he said grimly. He stayed up until four in the morn- 
ing, telephoning and telegraphing in the effort to get a substitute so much 
better than Jack that the reviews of Tuesday, probably derogatory, would be 
reversed on Wednesday morning. 

His efforts did not meet with success, and he left word with his man to wake 
him early Tuesday. When his man called him, he asked for the morning pa- 
pers. He was about to turn to the theatrical page when his eye was caught by 
a headline on the front sheet. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he read, and, as 
he read, a low whistle escaped him. He dropped the first paper and took an- 
other. He swore softly. "That damn kid!" he murmured gleefully. "That damn 
kid! Stevens, tell Herman to have the car out in a half-hour." 


He had to slip a crisp green bank-note into the hand of the policeman 
before room was made for him to stand in the crush in the narrow lobby 
of the Hester Street synagogue. Jack Robin, swathed in the folds of a great 
black-striped linen Tallis, an elaborate and stiff, black, plush skull-cap on his 
head, his thin, handsome face deadly white, his dark eyes afire, was singing 
that splendid aria of his father 's—HaMelekh, "The King"— and as the majesty 
of it rolled forth, broke, and narrowed into rivulets of humility, David Lee 
pinched himself to see if he were asleep. 

Then, after a few moments of quick rattling recitative, Jack went on into 
a clear, low- toned series of sounds which had the effect of musical talking, 
of superbly self-contained remonstrance. This speech gradually rose to a 
fluttering uncertainty, a bewildered pleading, and then the climax came— a 
flood of confession. 

Excitedly, Lee elbowed his way out of the crowd. 

"Where's the nearest telephone?" he asked the policeman. 

"Right on the corner— the drug store, sir." 

In five minutes Harry Anthony was on the wire. 

"Harry," said Lee, "do you want to hear the greatest ragtime singer in 
America in the making? A wonder, Harry, a wonder! Got Hal Bolton mopped 
off the boards. Come down right away. It's a dirty little hole down on the 
East Side called the Hester Street Synagogue. Ill meet you on the corner of 
Hester and Norfolk." 

Native New Yorker Samson Raphaelson (1894-1983) wrote the short story from which 
the above is excerpted, for Everybody's Magazine, where it appeared in January 1922. 
He rewrote it as a 192S Broadway play, The Jazz Singer, starring George Jessel Two 
years later it made movie history as the first "talkie" issued by Warner Brothers and 
featuring Al Jolson in the lead role. Among other successful films, Raphaelson wrote 
the screenplay for Trouble in Paradise, The Last of Mrs. Cheyney, The Shop Around 
the Corner, Heaven Can Wait, and The Harvey Girls. During the last ten years of 
his life he taught play writing at Columbia University. 


^ ginak== gS 


Aaron BlumenfelcTs Setting of Psalm 27— 

Adonai Ori V'-Yish'i 

Gleaned from Many Sources 

Aaron Blumenfeld has worked intensively— in classical, jazz, and Jewish 
liturgy— as a composer, teacher, cantor and conductor of synagogue choirs. 
He has written several large works on Jewish themes, most notably Ezk'roh: 
A Symphonic Poem, the Yiddish opera Pagiel un Bas-Sheva, and the present 
work, from the song cycle Twelve Psalm Settings for Baritone and Piano. 

Adonai Ori V'-Yish'i (Psalm 27), recited on the Ten days of Penitence from 
Rosh HaShanah to Yom Kippur, expresses two opposite feelings, each of which 
may be felt during this period. 

On the one hand we strive for an absolute faith... ("though my father and 
mother leave me, God will care for me"), and on the other hand, the sense 
of God s absence.. . ("I want to see God"). But the absence of any response 
on Gods part is the unhappy fate of the devotee. So all the psalmist can 
leave us with is a thin thread of faith and hope— and that consolation 
constitutes the last line ("Be strong, take courage, and hope in God"). 1 

Aaron Blumenfeld s setting of this "Penitential" Psalm presents a challenge 
to hazzanim looking for a nusah-based concert piece that could be short- 
ened for use in worship. In the first place, God s name constantly repeats (as 
"HaShem"), which rules out liturgical applicability for many. Secondly, the 
song ranges from low F to high F#, in an egalitarian age when male and female 
cantors are most convincing in their middle register. Moreover, low-voiced 
mezzos or contraltos might be put off by the composer s disclaimer — "for 
Baritone" — and most baritones would be daunted by the climaxes built in 
at either pitch extreme. The setting s length (247 measures) rules it out for 
prayer; only Traditional Ashkenazic mahzorim include the text, and those 
congregations which recite the psalm do so silently after being cued by the 
cantor, who then reiterates the closing verse aloud. Finally, the composer s use 
of Ashkenazic pronunciation seems calculated to alienate Liberal cantors, his 
logical consumers, who have universally opted for the Sephardic idiom. 

1 Mahzorfor the High Holy Days — Evening Service — Yom Kippur, Preliminary 
Edition, Edward Feld, ed. (New York: The Rabbinical Assembly), 2004: 47. 


On the positive side, Blumenfeld has cradled the solo line in a piano accom- 
paniment woven around an elegant recurring motif that takes listeners into a 
world redolent of ancient synagogue song (measures 12-13; Example 1). 

Piano < 


m j fj- {j0 




Example 1. Blurnenf eld's recurring motif in the piano accompaniment to Psalm 


Blumenfeld s leitmotif compresses two linked Bible-cantillation motifs 
that lie at the heart of a widespread tradition for chanting darga-fvir in Sifrei 
Ra"Ka"Sh (the Books of Rut-Kohelet-Shir HaShirim). Both trop patterns de- 
rive from Abraham Idelsohn s comparative chart of 16 diaspora communities' 
cantillation practice (Example 2). 2 


Dar - ga t' - vir 

Example 2. Widespread tradition for cantillating darga-fvir in Sifrei ra"Ka"Sk 

The linked darga-fvir motifs appear in the piyyut B'rah, Dodi, a religious 
poem sung on the first day of Pesah (Abraham Baer; Example 3). 3 




cirxJ i r crcr 

B' - rah,. 



Example 3. Sifrei Ra"Ka"Sh darga-fvir motif in a piyyut for the first day of 

2 Abraham Zvi Idelsohn, Tol'dot Ha-N'ginah Ha-Ivrit (Tel-Aviv: Dvir), 1924: 
118-141, 192. 

3 Abraham Baer, Baal T'fillah (Gothenburg: self-published), 1877, no. 788a. 


The linked motifs are featured in a biblical verse— lekhteikh aharai ("I 
recall how you followed Me in the wilderness")— quoted as part of the Rosh 
HaShanah Musaf Amidah liturgy (Louis Lewandowsky; Example 4). 4 




gfi g [> p 


r J f L r i r i 

B' - e - rets lo z'-ru - ah. 

Example 4. Sz/m Ra"Ka"Sh darga-t'vir motif in Rosh HaShanah Musaf Amidah. 

The phrase also occurs in T'fillat Tal, the annual prayer for dew in the Land 
of Israel, offered on the first day of Pesah (Salomon Sulzer; Example 5). 5 



bh>gf) i J- v^ f 




t' va - reikh ma - zon, 

Example 5. Sifrei Ra"Ka"Sh darga-t'vir motif in Tal, the Prayer for Dew. 

The full-blown version of this Sifrei Ra"Ka"Sh darga-t'vir motif in Blumen- 
felds accompaniment to Psalm 27 (measures 9-11) looks like this (Example 



Example 6. Full-blown version of darga-t'vir motif in Blumenfeld's Psalm 27. 

Blumenfeld varies these motivic elements through transposition and re- 
versal, alternating linear declamation ("My adversaries failed and have fallen ," 
measures 27-32) with rhapsodic excursion ("... to live in Gods house all the 
days of my life" measures 71-86). His closing section enlists a cadential de- 
scent to the subtonic degree in natural minor that was preferred in Eastern 

4 Louis Lewandowsky, Todah W'simrah (Berlin: self-published), Vol. II, 1882, 
no. 198. 

5 Salomon Sulzer, SchirZion II (Vienna 1865), Joseph Sulzer, ed. (Vienna 1905, 
republished in Frankfurt am Main: J. Kaufmann), 3 rd edition, 1922, no. 249. 


European — particularly Hasidic — usage. This is evidenced by a prayer chant 
for M'-Khalkeil Hayyim ("Who Sustains the Living") that was discovered 
by composer Lazare Saminsky during an ethnographic expedition from St. 
Petersburg, Russia to the old communities of Georgian Jews living in the 
Caucasus Mountains in 1913 (Example 7). 6 

Piano < 



ggg - i y } I g g Q g 




M' khal - keil_ hay - yim 







Example 7. Cadential descent to natural-minor subtonic, as sung in prayer by 
the Jews of Georgia in the Caucasus. 

Blumenfeld adopts the above cadential pattern to open the concluding verse 
of Psalm 27, at the words Lulei he'ernanti lirbs b'-tuv HaShem ("Yet I believe 
that I shall surely see God s goodness"; measures 228-231, Example 8). 

BLUMENFELD: 228-231 

v mv r f- t i e r M r r i s l 


Lu - lei he - e - man - ti li'r - os b' - tuv Ha - shem, 

J- I J 1 3 


^a , Pr- 

* r- 






P^ g 

Example 8. Blumenfelds use of the Georgian cadential pattern for the closing 
section of Psalm 27. 

In sum, we face a quandary in recommending this undeniably moving but 
overlong psalm setting written in a basic ABA sonata form. Its powerful B 
section, raised a half-tone for brilliance, is not long enough (only 20 out of 
247 measures) to make a significant difference if cut. Moreover, its absence 
would weaken the overall musical structure— removing a brightly contrast- 

6 Lazar Saminsky, A Song Treasury of Old Israel (New York: Bloch), 1951: 1. 


ing episode while damping the re-entry of section A material just before the 
pieces close in Georgian style. 

Like many synagogue classics of the past, this potential staple of the mod- 
ern American repertoire, though beautifully and lovingly crafted, does not 
quite meet the expectations of 21 st -century reality. Its melodic underpinning, 
though stemming from universal Jewish practice, is no longer recognizable 
to Jews who are disconnected from their biblical and liturgical heritage. For 
the persuasive power of its music to win this setting the audience it deserves, 
the composer might have to reduce its current length by half. 

The complete cycle of Aaron Blumenfeld's Twelve Psalm Settings for Baritone 

and Piano is available from the composer: aaronblumenfeld( . 


?ri>ah== i ^ 5= 

Penitential Torah Reading in Ashkenazic Practice 

Gleaned from many sources 

Among Jewish communities, Ashkenazim are the exception in having a special 
musical mode for reading Torah on the High Holidays. All other rites read it 
in the same mode as is used during the year. The reason, according to pioneer- 
ing Jewish musicologist Abraham Idelsohn, 1 may stem from a commentary 
in the Zohar (mystical Book of Splendor, 13 th century), on Leviticus chapter 
16, the reading for Yom Kippur morning: When the sudden death of Aaron's 
sons, Nadav and Avihu, is read aloud on Yom Kippur, everyone should shed 
tears; and whoever expresses sorrow over the death of Aaron's children may 
be sure that his own children will not die in his lifetime. 

Following this statement, argues Idelsohn, old Ashkenazic mahzorim like 
the one published in Salonica in 1550, instructed that this Torah portion be 
chanted in a tune that reflects sadness. The search for such sorrowful music led 
to the mode in which Sephardim chant the Book of Job on the fast of Tishah 
BAv. Ashkenazim did not have that custom, but found that the Sephardic 
melody for reading Job suited the Zohar s requirement for reading Torah on 
Yom Kippur. Later they extended its use to Rosh HaShanah as well. 

In Eastern Europe, where the so-called "Lithuanian" tradition propogated 
by followers of the Vilna Gaon (Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, 1720-1797) pre- 
vailed, High Holiday Torah reading took on a sound akin to that of Haftarah 
reading. We see this kinship in a comparative chart compiled by researcher 
Salomon Rosowsky in the 1950s, of Penitential Torah and year-round Haftarah 
neume motifs for the zakef-katon group of famim (Example l.). 2 

1 Abraham Z, Idelsohn, Jewish Music (New York: Henry Holt), 1929: 57. 

2 Salomon Rosowsky, classroom material from course in Cantillation accord- 
ing to Lithuanian Tradition (New York: Cantors Institute at the Jewish Theological 
Seminary), 1956-57. 





e S J II J 

k' tan - nah_ 





mah - pah_ 








MW p a ^ p 

1 1 Q j> g ii 








Example 1. Eastern European (Lithuanian) zakef-katon group comparing High 
Holy Day Torah and year-round Haftarah cantillation. 

In Western Europe, Ashkenazic Torah reading on the High Holy Days more 
closely resembled a Students' Cantillation (Stubentrop) that had arguably 
survived from the Talmudic age to the 20th century, according to the Jewish 
Encyclopedia. 3 

But it was never so developed for the small audience in the house of 
study as was the scriptural cantillation for the larger congregation 
in the house of prayer... Examples are referred to by the Tosafists... 
and an accentuated copy of the Mishnah was processed by Joseph 
Solomon Megiddo in the 17 th century. Indeed, one treatise of 
the Mishnah was printed with accents as late as 1533. The oldest 
extant manuscript of the Talmud, a fragment of K'ritot, is marked 
with accents for the students' cantillation, and can be examined 
in the facsimile published in Singer and Schechters "Rabbinical 

Based on a remark in the Maharil, 4 who according to Idelsohn, 5 "saved the 
integrity of the synagogue s ritual and music by sanctioning the old tunes," 
other historians have posited that in 14th-and- 15th-century Germany, Jewish 
school children would chant Scripture for their teacher in a mode similar to 

3 Francis L. Cohen, s.v. "Cantillation," Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. Ill (New York: 
Funk & Wagnalls), 1903: 548. Charles Heller notes that Stubentrop actually means 
"school-room cantillation" (What to Listen for in Jewish Music, Toronto: Ecanthus 
Press, 2006: 101). 

4 Maharil (Moreinu Ha-Rav Yaakov Levi, 1356- 1427), leading halakhic authority 
of his time in German-speaking lands, Hilkhot Yom Kippur 

5 Idelsohn, Jewish Music, 1929: 177f. 


the one used in synagogue on the High Holy Days. 6 To identify that mode — the 
Stubentrop— even in a simplified student- type formulation— we must turn to 
a rabidly anti- Jewish book, The Heilek (referring to a section of BT Tractate 
Sanhedrin) written by the apostate, Gerson of Halberstadt, who died in 1627. 
He parodies the Stubentrop by placing it in the mouths of a lady fishmonger 
and her customer haggling over price (Example 2.) 7 

Customer: Madam, how much for the herring? 

Fishmonger: You may have it for three cents. 

Customer: That's too expensive! 

Fishmonger: How about one cent? 

Customer: That's too cheap! 

Fishmonger: In that case you may pay twenty cents. 

The frivolous cynicism of this mock- verbal exchange belies the underlying 
majesty of the underlying mode as it was used in synagogues on the holiest 
days of the Jewish year. 

ad lib. 

M .MJ-h^i^ 5 ^ 

J J I «n* \ ?J » 

Fraw,wie gebt ir die He- ring? Umb drey Pfen- nig! 

Das istzu thew- er! 


ei-nenPfen- nig? 

Das ist zu wol- feil! 

Dar -umb umb zwe-ne Pfen- ig! . 

Example 2. Students mode (Stubentrop) — normally used when chanting Scripture 
in medieval German Jewish classrooms, parodied as a tool for haggling overfish 

Although Gerson of Halberstadt never intended the above parody to be 
helpful to his former coreligionists, it is instructive to isolate from it the four 

6 Abraham Berliner, Aus dem Leben der deutsche Juden in Mittlelalter, 2nd 
edition (Berlin), 1900: 56. 

7 Cited in Eric Werner, A Voice Still Heard— The Sacred Songs oftheAshkenazic 
Jews (University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press), 1976: 



Stubentrop motifs that play a prominent role in the Western European tradi- 
tion of Ashkenazic Penitential Torah reading (Example 3.). 8 




Sof pa - suk_ 



Example 3. Four Stubentrop motif s prominent in Western Ashkenazic Penitential 
Torah reading. 

Based on the above four motifs — with allowance for personal variations — 
here are four motif groupings (alternately labeled "clauses") as they appear 
in the last verse (Genesis 22: 14) of portion number four— r'vi'a— from the 
Torah reading for the 2nd day of Rosh HaShanah — the Binding of Isaac: 


merkha-tipp'ha, munah-etnahta; 

pashta, munah-katon; 

[final] merkha-tipp'ha, merkha-sof-pasuk; 

The Western Ashkenazic tradition presented here is that of the Copen- 
hagen Synagogue, as transcribed from the recording of an actual reading on 
September 2, 1969 (Example 4.). 9 

8 Abba Yosef Weisgal, "Taamei ha-Torah T-Yamim Noraim," in Emunat Abba, 
transcribed and edited by Joseph A. Levine, 25th Anniversary Edition (New York: The 
Cantors Assembly), 2006: 30-31. 

9 Jane Mink Rossen & Uri Sharvit. A Fusion of Traditions— Liturgical Music in 
the Copenhagen Synagogue (University Press of Southern Denmark), 2006: 147; Torah 
reader: J. Kaminkowitz. 




J . J J j j j J 



Va - yik - ra_ 

Av - ra - ham,_ 



Sheim ha - ma - kom ha - hu A - do - nai 


yir - eh;. 



a - sher_ 






J JJ J J ^ ^i 

b' -har_ 

A - do - nai_ 





Example 4. Motif groups from a Western Ashkenazic Penitential Torah reading, 
as performed in the Copenhagen Synagogue, 2 nd day ofRosh HaShanah 1969. 

Musicologist Eric Werner 10 agrees that a definite relationship exists between 
the Stubentrop and Ashkenazic Penitential cantillation. The question in the 
United States remains: which version of that cantillation shall one use? Unlike 
English Jewry, which still retains Western Ashkenazic Torah and Haftarah 
reading throughout the year, 11 American Jews of every denomination have 
become thoroughly accustomed to the Lithuanian style of cantillation. It 
would be futile to attempt swimming against this established current. We 
therefore chart nine clauses of Penitential Torah neume motifs that reflect 
Eastern Ashkenazic, i.e. Lithuanian, practice (Example 5.). 12 

10 Eric Werner, A Voice Still Heard, 1976: 11. 

11 Victor Tunkel. The Music of the Hebrew Bible (London: Tymster Publishing), 

12 Salomon Rosowsky, 1958, in Joseph A. Levine, Synagogue Song in America 
(Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson), 2001: 208-211, line III throughout. 




Sof-pasuk-group motifs 


Etnahta-group motifs 

L ^1 k 

m \ 

) * 


1 ^ J d ' 




1 ^ u 

mer-kha tipp' ha_ mer- kha_ sofpa-suk mer-kha tipp-ha_ mu- nah et-nah-ta_ 

j. Segol- 

group moms 

— 1*^ 1 

hhT^ ,, 

(m) m — J — 

* 3~ 

r i e L 

— * — — ra^ 

— 3^ U B 

mu-nah zar- ka 3 

mu-nah se- gol_ 

4. Katon-group motifs 

mah- pakh pash-ta mu- nah_ ka- ton_ ga- dol 

5. R'vi'a-group motifs 

t j j nn 

j i , n?]i 

1' - gar - mei_ 

mu - nah 

r - vi 

6. T'vir- gro up motifs 

dar - ga. 

7. Additional-connector motifs 

f' }Q i j> J I j> -TJ- l J 

mu- nah mu-nah mu- nah 

. Additional-separator motifs 

kad - ma 

resh ger-sha yim_ 

*- I — J I J S J I J J 1 = J— J yf - 

pa - zeir_ 


9. Motifs for concluding Chapter/Portion 



JOJJhJ^J- l 


mer-kha tipp' kha 6 

mer-kha sofpa- suk_ 

Example 5. Eastern Ashkenazic (Lithuanian) Penitential Torah-reading clauses. 


The blessings recited before and after every Torah portion read during the 
High Holy Day Morning services are generally a blend of Eastern and Western 
Ashkenazic Torah-reading tradition. This is verified by the habitual practice 
of Hazzan Abba Yosef Weisgal (1885-1989), who had encountered this fusion 
as a student in Vienna and refined it over the next 70 years in the only two 
cantorial positions he occupied: Ivancice, Czechoslovakia; and the Chizuk 
Amuno Congregation in Baltimore, Maryland (Example 6,). 13 

t j j i j j j j a 


> I in j n rrr n 


-r' - khu et A-do- nai_ ham-vo- rakh. 

Ba - rukhA-do-naiham-vo- rakh_ 

V o 

lam va-ed. 1. Ba - rukha-tah,A-do-nai, e-lo-hei nume-lekhha o - lam, [pre-] a - sherba-har 
2. Ba - rukh a -tah, A-do -nai, e-lo-hei nume-lekhha o - lam,[post-] a-sherna-tan 

.rc jtjJIi j.j-h njj-)\ flj7>j.i j/j 


ba-numi-kolha-a mim, v'-na-tan la-nuetto-ra - to Ba-rukha-tah,A-do 

la -nu to -rat e - met v' hay-yeio-lamna-ta b'-to - kheinu. Ba-rukha-tah,A-do 


Qj. Jyi l i ji 


no - tem_ 
no - tein_ 

ha - to 
ha - to 


Example 6. Penitential Torah Blessings, blending elements from Eastern and 
Western Ashkenazic traditions. 

Abraham Idelsohn studied public reading of the Book of Job among the 
Jews of Syria, Iran, Iraq, Morocco and Italy, as well as among the Sephardic 
Jews of London and Amsterdam. He found that of Job s 1,070 verses, only 
24 contain more than two hemistichs. He concluded that it was the reason 
for an essentially binary pattern in which all those communities chanted the 
Book of Job on the fast of Tish ah BAv (9 th of Av). In charting a composite 
"Sephardic" (i. e., Middle Eastern) cantillation for Job, Idelsohn noted how 
closely the melody's contour matched that of Ashkenazic Torah reading on 
the High Holy Days (Example 7.). 14 

13 Emunat Abba, op. cit, p. 33. 

14 Abraham Z. Idelsohn, Tol'dot ha-N'ginah ha-Ivrit (Tel-Aviv: P. Naidt), 1924: 


^ pffij m ^j i tj J ! g ^g 

a et-nah-ta_ 

tipp' - ha sofpa- suk_ 


>J iJl WJ l ffll ! »flflJ I I 




High Holiday 

Example 7. Idelsohn s comparison of Sephardic reading of the Book of Job on the 

fast ofTish'ah B'Av, and Ashkenazic Torah reading on the High Holy Days. 

From the widespread diffusion of this unique chant pattern among such 
disparate groups, Idelsohn hypothesized that 

the various nushabt (prescribed modes for singing sacred texts on specific 
liturgical occasions) are ancient folk heritages that live through their 
continuous common usage by the people, and not necessarily by virtue of 
their connection with particular texts. It was not the texts that gave rise to 
the motives that hazzanim and baalei t'fillah fit to those texts which made 
them come alive. . . So it was with the Ashkenazic nusah for reading Torah 
on Yamim Nora'irn. We found the following instruction in an Ashkenazic 
mahzor from Salonica, 1550. "On Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur the 
Torah must be read in a low tune, as if one is groaning. "In other words, 
it is not to be read in the regular mode that is used all year. I have seen 
the same instruction in old Ashkenazic mahzorim from Cremona and 
Venice... I have not found it in any other Ashkenazic mahzorim. 

From this evidence Idelsohn surmised that the custom had originated 
among Ashkenazim who fled to Italy and the Balkans between the 14th and 
17th centuries following persecutions in Germany. As stated earlier, he saw its 
origins in the Zohar on Leviticus 16, the chapter read on Yom Kippur, which 
opens with the death of Aaron's two sons, Nadav and Avihu. This narration 
should be accompanied by the weeping of worshipers. And because the type 
of tune that causes such weeping is mentioned only in Ashkenazic mahzorim 
from Italy and the Balkans, Idelsohn assumes the newcomers from Western 
Europe first heard it on their arrival when worshiping in the local synagogues 
when Job was read aloud. 

Moreover, the special Torah portion (Exodus 32: 12) read on every fast day 
during Shaharit and on Tish ah B av during Minhah, features a congregational 

Shuv mei-haron apekha n'-hinaheim al ha-ra'ah V-amekha 

[O God,] turn from Your fierce wrath, 

and repent of this evil against Your people!— 


sung to the nusah_of High Holy Day Torah reading (Example 8.). 15 


m. ^ m. 

3 I I a ^«*h eg > 

Shuv mei-ha- ron_ a-pe-kha, v' hi-na-heimal ha-ra-ah l'-a - me-kha. 

Example 8. Congregational response during Torah reading for Shaharit of fast 
days andMinhah ofTish'ah B'Av, sung in the nusah of Penitential Torah reading. 

Western European Jews who had migrated to Italy and the Balkans all joined 
in at moments like this, and soon adopted both the custom and the melody 
from the Middle Easterners already settled in those communities. Although 
both the Book-of-Job reading and the fast-day response pattern were new 
to the ears of immigrants from Western Ashkenaz (the Book was never read 
publicly there), their motivic groupings meshed seamlessly with the Stuben- 
trop chant that the Rhinelanders had brought with them for learning. When 
combined, the Eastern and Western nus'ha'ot formed a mode that perfectly 
suited the requirements of Penitential Torah reading — a tune expressive of 
sadness, suffering and contrition (Example 9.). 

i j-^ r j.H^ p~J j. i -tj-j ju'j. i jy >' i [f 

mu-nah_ka- ton,_ mer - kha tipp'-ha_ mu - nah et-nah- ta, kad - ma az - la mu- 


rr^j n \ sr . 

nah r' - vi 

a, mer - kha tipp'-ha sofpa- suk._ 

Example 9. A fusion of Eastern and Western Ashkenazic Penitential Torah 

15 Yehoshua L. Neeman, Tslilei ha-Mikra, vol I (Tel-Aviv: P. Naidt), 1956: 128. 


Salomon Rosowsky (1878-1962), first instructor of Cantillation 

at the Cantors Institue 

Sketch by Joseph Levine, 1956 




Subject: Future of the Feher Jewish Music Center 

January 10, 2008 

The Director of Beth Hatefutsoth Museum, Tel Aviv, has recently announced 
that my work as Director of the Feher Jewish Music Center will be terminated 
on March 31, 2008 "due to budgetary constraints " The Feher has been a one- 
man department since its establishment some 25 years ago by musicologist 
Dr. Avner Bahat Therefore, firing me has obvious implications; continuation 
of the Center s preservation and dissemination activities are acutely endan- 
gered. I warmly thank the Journals readers for their support. 

Juval Shaked 


Subject: The Khazntes 

March 9, 2007 

Re Arianne Slack Browns wonderful article about the lives of six Khazntes... 
I never could enjoy listening to some of the people featured— though em- 
pathizing with them: it always sounded to me like women in drag. But the 
article gave me a genuine respect for them. Fd like to have known about their 
training. Sheindele, who transcribed that Hershman selection {B'rokhofun 
Hallel by Rapaport) must have been quite a musician. Fve heard the record- 
ing and it looks like the notation does it justice. 

Gershon Freidlin 


Subject: Perele Feig, an Unsung European Khaznte, Israeli Hazzaniyot 

August 27, 2007 

Re: the uncannily masculine sound of Perele Feig s hazzanut, fifty years ago 
the radio station Kol Yisrael received an LP recording titled Cantorial Mas- 
terpieces. The jacket contained the name Perele Feig, but included no photo 
nor any biographical information. The programmers therefore assumed the 
name Perele was a misspelling. Before airing the selection singled out for 
mention in Arianne Slack Brown s JSM 2007 article, the announcer said: 


"And now you are about to hear the prayer, Tiheir Rabi Yishrna'eil Atsrno, 
composed by Zevulon Kwartin and sung by Cantor Berele Feig." IVe since 
discovered, on the Internet, that Perele was accompanied on that recording 
by her brother, pianist Yoel Feig. 

As for khanzntes in Europe, Nobel Prize-wining author S. Y Agnon wrote 
(in Ir U-M'lo'ah, pp. 71-79) that in his hometown of Buczacz in Eastern Gali- 
cia — now part of Ukraine and Belarus — the wife of their cantor, Rav Eliyah, 
used to write compositions that her husband incorporated regularly in his 
daven n. Her father, Rav Nisan the hazzan of Monostritch, had named her 
aptly: Miriam D Vorah, after two biblical women closely connected with our 
peoples song. The lone survivor of all her parents' sons and daughters — the 
rest had died in early childhood— she inherited all of her fathers vocal and 
musical talent. Her compositions included matbei'a prayers as well as pi- 
yyutirn, the most notable of which was a k'rovah for Parashat Ha-Hodesh. 
None of them were ever used for the synagogue service, because the way they 
were written purportedly revealed "the voice of a woman." Her children all 
learned ta'amei ha-Mikra from her, yet she suffered lifelong depression over 
the rejection of her music. At her premature death it was discovered that she 
wore a tallit katan under her outer clothing. 

It was said that she donned t'fillin every morning and that her husband 
never objected. In fact, he ordered the following epithet to be engraved on 
her headstone: 

A God-fearing woman, she shall be praised. 
As a master of prayer and liturgical poetry 
She was undoubtedly the equal of any man. 

Concerning a recent phenomenon on the local cantorial scene, women 
are now appearing before the public, bearing the title "Hazzan" (or, to be 
precise, "Hazzanit"). Formerly, we Israelis were used to hearing women 
perform hazzanic selections in concert, but now things have changed. At a 
recent Klezmer festival in Tsfat, four women "Hazzaniyot" were billed: Adi 
Arad, Naomi Teplow, Rachel Vilner and Hagit Kfir. The first three belong to 
the Reform and Conservative movements, while the last named identifies 
with Orthodoxy. All have beautiful voices, but not everything written for 
hazzanim works equally well for their female counterparts. Still, I note that 
women students outnumber men at the School of Sacred Music and the H. 
L. Miller Cantorial School. It seems, therefore, that women cantors are here 
to stay. One may like or dislike the idea, but one can no longer ignore this 
fact of life. 


Akiva Zimmermann 

Subject: Sephardi Influences on Ashkenazic Liturgy in London 

February 16, 2008 

Re Naomi Cohn Zentner s article that appeared in JSM 2007, in my Youth 
Minyan in Manchester, which included a lot of Sephardi boys, we had the 
custom of mixing the nusah depending on who was doing which bit of the 
service. However, a few things were fixed tune-wise, and Az YaShir was sung 
to the Sephardi melody every Shabbat morning in P'sukei DeZimra. (I was 
there only every fortnight because the choir in South Manchester Main Shul 
operated every other week and had prior call on my loyalty) Incidentally, 
their "whole-paragraph" chanting had a major effect on Sephardi families' 
knowledge of the prayers: thorough and by heart; especially long texts like 
Nishrnat, U-VaLeTziyon, etc. The Sephardim in South Manchester also used 
the Az YaShir tune in Hallel for the paragraph Min HaMeitsar. 

David Prager 


Subject: Launching the European Academy for Jewish Liturgy (EAJL) 

November 26, 2007 

With help from the Cantors Assembly, and working on the premise that 
in the future, Jewish prayer outside the USA will be lay-led, EAJL provides 
mentoring to aspiring leaders on a one-to-one basis, wherever they live, 
through instant audio-visual broadband communication media like Skype 
or MSN that cost little or nothing. It is not intended to replace formal full- 
time cantorial training. 

The Cantors Assembly has agreed to find professional hazzanic mentors 
amongst its members. Students learn whatever units they need (for example, 
Ma ariv F-Hol at a Shiva minyan) in whatever language they choose and 
according to whichever tradition they need. Already, three students from 
France, one from the UK, and one from Spain have entered the process and 
been matched with mentors. 

EAJL was launched in November 2007 with a hazzanic seminar at the in- 
augural conference of Masorti Europe, in Paris. This was followed by a major 
concert in London featuring Hazzan Sol Zim, 70 children from British Jewish 
Primary Schools and a combined adult choir trained by the fine UK musician, 
Joseph Finlay Hazzan Zim then led a 2-day seminar at London University 


on the nusah of Shabbat and how to involve congregations in prayer. The 
London programs, sponsored by the Jewish Music Institute and attended by 
60 people from different European countries, culminated in a reception at 
the British House of Commons. 

The Cantors Assembly was represented by its immediate past president, 
Hazzan Steven Stoehr, who led a workshop at London University and spoke 
at the concert and reception. 

The profile of the cantorate in the UK is not a positive one. What few can- 
tors there are, function mainly in Orthodox (the British United Synagogue) 
shuls, and only one of them in London holds a full time position. The Masorti 
movement boasts only two hazzanim and one new student who is preparing 
to enter cantorial school at Boston Hebrew College this year. There are no 
cantors as yet in Reform synagogues although one student in her fourth year 
at HUC s School of Sacred Music in New York is expected to return to the 
UK once she graduates. 

That is why synagogue services in the UK are often led with mediocrity 
and no understanding of nusah ha-ffillah. There is an urgent need to inspire 
and teach capable lay people. Our rabbis and synagogue officials must be 
helped to realize how necessary it is to produce leaders of prayer who are 
on their own spiritual journeys so that they can enable their congregants to 
participate with devotion. It's a huge challenge, and as Director of the EAJL, 
I thank the CA for its invaluable help and invite JSM readers to seek further 
information at . 

Jaclyn Chernett 


Subject: Music of the French Synagogue 

November 5, 2007 

As a trained musician (cello) and an American who happened to be in Paris 
over Yamim Noraim I dropped into the Grande Synagogue on rue de la Vie- 
to ire to see if anything remained of the noble French tradition that prevailed 
between the World Wars. I own an LP recording of services as performed 
at the same locale under the direction of Leon Algazi in 1939, and hoped to 
hear some of the same music. I did, with some notable differences. 

The pipe organ and large mixed choir (I recall seeing on the liner notes 
of a recently released CD that there had been 36 choristers right after WW 
II) were now replaced by twelve men singing mostly in unison. Only half of 


them wore talleisim, which led some of the congregation (myself included) 
to suspect that the others were non-Jews. 

The repertoire— as arranged by Samuel David in 1895 and reduced to a solo 
voice by Jules Franck in 1920 — remained intact but was sung by a seriously 
out-of-tune cantor and choir seemingly out of touch with the 300 worshipers' 
needs; every opportunity to involve them was missed through poor musical 
arrangements. Israel Goldfarb s Areshet S'fateinu (a later addition, obviously) 
fell under this heading. Other moments that we have come to recognize as 
congregational in the U. S. were rushed through by the cantor in an unrec- 
ognizable key or mode. These included the Four Meiein Zikhronot: Zokh- 
reinu L'-Hayyim; Mi Khamokha Av Ha-Rahamim; U-Kh'tov L'-Hayyirn; and 
B'-Seifer Hayyim. Old chorales like Samuel Naumbourgs B'-Rosh HaShanah 
were so drawn out and quirkily phrased that no one could sing along even 
if they wanted to. 

Which brings me to the congregation itself, mostly old timers in the Main 
Sanctuary— a domed cathedral with magnificent stained-glass windows and 
100-foot-high ceiling — and mostly young marrieds with small children in 
three other minyanim scattered in various halls around the vast premises, 
that sang refrains familiar to us (V'-Ha'eir Eineinu). In the main service, 
ninety percent of the worshipers didn't daven at all. As if to compensate, the 
remaining ten percent hopped up and down three times zXKadosh, Kadosh, 
Kadosh. Strangely, at least to this observer who's used to seeing only the cantor 
prostrate himself at the Great Aleinu of the Amidah repetition back home, 
ninety percent of the men fell kor'irn. 

That alone convinced me that a Jewish heart still beats in these beleagured 
co-religionists of ours, many of whom now walk to shul wearing black base- 
ball caps instead of yarmulkes in hopes of escaping recognition as Jews by 
mischief-bound Muslims. 

Arthur Bergen 


Subject: Comments on Jewish Life in Germany 

May 1, 2007 

The Jewish community structure in Germany is quite different from that in 
the United States, where each congregation is autonomous and may choose 
to join a movement or not. The national movements are supported by con- 
gregations, and the congregations are supported by congregants. In other 


words, the community is built from the bottom up. Displeased members are 
free to join a competing congregation in the same market, or even to found 
a new congregation. 

In Germany, community structure is built from the top down. The 
Central Council of Jews in Germany distributes funds to each of the State 
Synagogue Associations— Germany has 16 states— and each Association 
distributes funding to the synagogues in its own state. I once officiated 
in a congregation during a Shabbat program, sponsored by the German 
government, and designed to show off modern Germany to American Jewish 
college students. I called a woman to the Torah. During the next aliyah, as the 
woman still stood by the shulhan, the president of the congregation walked in. 
He sent a messenger to tell me not to do any thing further with women. After 
the service, he explained why. He himself was not against women, but feared 
that somebody might indiscreetly mention the incident in public. If word got 
back to the State Synagogue Association, he could lose his funding. 

The bureaucracy is such that when the Jewish community of Schleswig- 
Holstein became independent from the Jewish Community of Hamburg, 
one of the first things they did was establish their own State Synagogue As- 
sociation even though there were only two synagogues in the entire state. 
The Hamburg Community didn't allow them to call the synagogue in Kiel a 
"synagogue" and in fact, if you called Kiel on the telephone they answered, 
"Jewish Community of Hamburg, Service Center Kiel." 

Funding comes from the Government at the national or municipal level. 
Working people have a Church tax deducted from their pay and sent directly 
to the local synagogue. Everyone in Germany must register his address, and 
the form has a space for religion. Filling it in is optional, but if you tell them 
you're Jewish, they automatically sign you up as a member of the local Jewish 
community. It doesn't matter if you live in a part of town that is nearer to the 
synagogue in the next municipality, or if you don t like the local synagogue. Of 
course nobody can force you to attend a synagogue you don t like or stop you 
from attending somewhere else, but you are not free to join the synagogue of 
your choice if you happen to live in the wrong place. If you try to found your 
own synagogue, which is possible, it will not be recognized as a community, 
but as a "club" and will most likely not receive funding. 

Most synagogues are classified as a "Unity Community." Before the 
war, this meant that all synagogues in a city would share the same ad- 
ministration. A Berliner, for example, would become a member of the 
Jewish Community of Berlin, and could then attend the synagogue of 
his choice. Due to the current reduced Jewish population in Germany — 


compared to pre-war levels — there are very few cities with real Unity 
Communities that offer a variety of worship opportunities. 

In most cities, politically conservative State Synagogue Associations or 
lay leaders who are neither informed about nor interested in religion lead to 
the perpetuation of "Non-practicing Orthodoxy" which essentially means 
that the synagogue building must be considered Orthodox even if there 
are no Orthodox Jews around. In other words, "Orthodox" is authentic 
and is good; "Liberal" Judaism is often referred to as if it were a disease. No 
one distinguishes between Conservative and Reform, and hardly anyone 
knows or wants to know the distinction. By "Liberal" most people mean 

To be sure, there are some Reform congregations, mostly belonging to 
the World Union for Progressive Judaism. There have been great tensions 
between these groups and the Unity Communities, due to ideology and 
money. Masorti has an office in Berlin, and of the four congregations that 
could qualify as Conservative, three are officially recognized, but only one 
holds weekly services. 

The German Rabbinical Association is divided into two parts, the Orthodox 
and the General Rabbinical Association. The latter, of which I am a founding 
member, includes the whole spectrum of non-Orthodox Judaism. Theoreti- 
cally, every member congregation of the Central Council of Jews in Germany 
is required to accept as a member anyone who moves into its jurisdiction 
who had formerly belonged to another member congregation. 

The biggest problem for religion in Germany is apathy. Synagogue atten- 
dance is no better than church attendance, and Catholic as well as Protestant 
churches are being closed or are merging. If synagogues are being built, as 
they indeed are with much publicity, it is because Judaism is politically cor- 
rect, and every city in Germany wants to be seen as supporting the Jews. It 
makes no difference if the new building remains empty or if the money for 
building or maintenance would be better spent on a rabbi or teacher. 

Germany had 30,000 Jews in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down 
(on Nov. 9, the 49 th anniversary of Kristallnacht). Today there are between 
100,000 and 200,000 Jews. The growth is through immigration from the 
former Soviet Union. Some congregations are 100% Russian, others only 
95%. This enormous majority has no background in either Judaism or 
democracy, and no vision of what a synagogue potentially could be. De- 
spite their numbers, the Russians have no power in many communities. 
Many of them are not halakhically Jewish and there are many stories of 
Soviet anti-Semites who have suddenly showed up in Germany as "Jews." 


The number of immigrants creates enormous practical problems, with 
which the Jewish community cannot cope adequately. On top of this, many of 
the German Jewish lay leaders are more interested in holding on to their own 
power for as long as possible rather than in helping the Russians to integrate 
and to take on leadership roles. Many of the Russians are interested in the 
synagogue only for the social services that it provides. A Russian-speaking 
social worker is often more in demand than a German-speaking rabbi, and 
synagogue presidents have been known to instruct their rabbis not to try to 
learn some Russian. 

The paradox is that without Soviet immigration, there would barely be a 
German Jewish community today. 

Daniel S. Katz 


Subject: Sh'ki'at ha-hammah in the Land of the Midnight Sun 

June 7, 2007 

I believe your readers will be interested in a question that I fielded during a 
recent Jewish Heritage tour to the Grand Choral Synagogue of St. Petersburg 
where I serve as cantor. I was describing how our Shabbat Morning service 
regularly draws over 200 worshipers when someone called out: "How do you 
know when to daven Maariv on Friday night?" Luckily for me, that issue had 
already been resolved by our rabbi, Menachem Mendel Pewzner. He set the 
time for Kabbalat Shabbat at 9 P.M. during the Summer months because if we 
waited for it to actually get dark it could take until 1:30 in the morning and 
we would not want to keep the children up that late. As for making Havdalah 
on Saturday night, that's no problem, since halakhically, if one has forgotten 
to recite the HaMavdil blessing, one can still do so until Tuesday night. 

Incidentally, I am privileged to follow in the footsteps of such giants 
as Zavel Kwartin and Pierre Pinchik, who served as Chief Cantors of this 
synagogue in 1908-1909 and 1920-1925, respectively. In deference to their 
legacy our Shabbat and Yom Tov services are accompanied by a male choir 
whose repertoire still includes such standards as Dunajewsky s Ein Komokho 
and Lewandowsky s Uv'-Nuho Yornar. To ensure that people pay attention 
to K'dushah and Hazarat ha-Shats, our Lubavitch-trained rabbi has posted 
a Lu ah titled Shulhan Orukh HaRav in which the late Rebbe spelled out 
what is expected of the congregation: to refrain from any activity — including 
learning— that would distract them from hearing and responding to every 
blessing uttered by the hazzan. 


In other words, we are a thriving community who look forward to greeting 
our American cousins whenever they are able to visit us. 

Gregory Yeckerson 

St. Petersburg, Russia 

51T1 — |i i* I" 

TtflB B0Q ^2? *©*» ftTDJ? "Warn* ^27= 

coWtr -rw atr^ p^ i 1 ? ar pa nmy 
d*b»i D-sntr pw rortsi m "noy^ 
bbs 'awsrb xhv ao« antra ibhsb 

Shulhan Arukh HaRav, Grand Choral Synagogue, St. Petersburg, 
Russia: "When the Sh'liah Tsibbur repeats the Amidah, the congrega- 
tion should silently focus on each B'rachah... and refrain from any other 
activity— including learning— during the Hazarat HaSha'Ts... 



Notes on the History and Origins of the Music of the 
Anglo-Jewish Synagogue Tradition 

Daniel Tunkel 

Origins of the Ashkenazi Community in London and the 
Great Synagogue 

The Jews were readmitted to England in 1656. Actually, what happened was 
less a formal act of readmission and grand acceptance, and more of an ac- 
quiescence by the regime of Oliver Cromwell that no basis could be found in 
law that prohibited the (re)settlement of the community nationally expelled 
by King Edward I in 1290. 

The first Jews to return under this process were members of the Portu- 
guese Community of Amsterdam, who within a few years had established 
for themselves a synagogue in Creechurch Lane in the City of London. That 
building was replaced in 1701 by the Bevis Marks Synagogue. 1 

Ashkenazi Jews followed their Sephardi brethren by the end of the 17 th 
century, coming mostly from Hamburg and other parts of North Germany. 
Circumstantial evidence of an organized synagogue goes back to about 
1690. 2 The fragmentary records from this period disclose the first Hazzan 
was one Rabbi Judah Leib ben Moses of Lissa, though nothing is known of 
his musicianship. 

1 Following the April 1993 IRA bomb in Bishopsgate, which destroyed a 15 th - 
century church, Bevis Marks Synagogue now holds the distinction of being the oldest 
building in the City of London used every day for statutory religious worship. 

2 A diary kept by a Presbyterian minister from Scotland of the religious buildings 
he found in the City of London on his visit in 1689-90 attests to three Jewish Syna- 
gogues, without being specific as to denomination. One was most probably Ashkenazi. 
Evidence of communal organisation from the 1690s includes the constitution of zhevra 
kadisha separate from that of the Sephardi Community s in 1695 and the acquisition 
of the first communal cemetery, at Alderney Road, in 1692-3. 


The first purpose-built syna- 
gogue was erected in 1722 under 
the patronage of Moses Hart, 
though this was replaced in 1764 
and again completely remodelled 
in 1790 (an interior scene from 
1809 is pictured left). It attracted 
the name of "The Great Syna- 
gogue" by the middle of the 18th 
Century to differentiate it from 
a breakaway congregation at the 
Hambro Synagogue 3 and, later, the New Synagogue 4 (these three being in effect 
London's Ashkenazi centres of worship right up to mid- Victorian times). 

Not surprisingly, the Great was very much the cradle of Anglo- Jewish syna- 
gogue music, and (with the broad exception of the United States) its musical 
traditions have penetrated a large part of the English-speaking Jewish world. 
The Great Synagogue was severely damaged by bombing during the "Blitz" in 
May 1941 (pictured on the next page, after the attack), and although it con- 
tinued to be used as a synagogue for certain purposes for three or four more 
years, the decision was taken after World War II that reparation money for 
damaged or destroyed communal buildings should in this case not be used to 
rebuild it (the community that supported having essentially long since moved 
on or been displaced). Hence the site was demolished and redeveloped and 
all that remains today is a short stretch of the original outer wall in Duke's 
Place, Aldgate, with a (frankly, rather illegible) plaque that tells a very little 
of the history of the place and nothing at all of its having been the cradle of 
a very substantial musical tradition. 

Jewish settlement, of course, spread throughout the British Isles. With 
the advent of the choral synagogue tradition, pioneered in Vienna in the 
1820s by Salomon Sulzer and introduced into the Great Synagogue formally 
in 1841, communities around the country built synagogues for themselves 

3 Founded 1707-8. There is a long and involved history to its formation, in effect 
as a schism from the main Ashkenazi community, and it seems to have acquired the 
"Hambro" nickname on account of the patronage of Hamburg Jews by then living in 

4 Founded in Leadenhall Street in the City of London in 1760, moved in 1838 to 
Great St. Helens, nearby, in 1838 and reconstructed in Egerton Road, Stamford Hill, 
in 1915. The building still exists, though is now not used for regular worship. 


to accommodate cantors and choirs. Many, as buildings, still exist, though 
the choral and cantorial tradition outside of London (and, debatably, in 

London for the most part as well) is largely gg$^ 
consigned to history. 5 

Three epochs 

Anglo-Jewish Synagogue music divides into 
three broad periods, the Georgian, the Victo- 
rian and the Twentieth Century. 

The Georgian era 

The Great Syna- 
gogues first musical 
flourishing was dur- 
ing the later 18 th cen- 
tury. The first truly 

noteworthy Hazzan (referred to in the community 
by-laws as the Reader) was Isaac Polack (pictured 
left 6 ), whose tenure from 1746 to 1802 is probably 
an Anglo-Jewish record. 

Bits and pieces survive from the music of that 
era. The most notable survival is probably the 
best-known melody around the world for Yigdal. 
Most people will easily recognize this melody as it appears in Kol Rinah 
V'Todah, 7 but have inserted as well an altogether more interesting item of 
historical interest. The melody was made famous by one of the most celebrated 
of the Great Synagogue s musicians, one Meyer Leon Singer, who is better 

5 I remember as a very young boy the Park Row Synagogue in Bristol had a 
bimah with a horse-shoe seating configuration at the rear. It never really occurred to 
me what this might have been for at the time, but on a visit years later, it was explained 
to me that this was a choir stall, and that the Synagogue had a choir in full service up 
to World War I and even occasionally thereafter. 

6 The by-laws of the community were particularly strict about the Hazzan wear- 
ing canonicals at all material times. 

7 Always fondly referred to as "The Blue Book", and treated— rightly or wrongly 
—as the authoritative compendium of choral music in the Anglo-Jewish Ashkenazi 
tradition. The Blue Book will be referred to further on in this summary, and by the 
way, for those interested the entire source can now be accessed as PDFs and sound 
files from the Internet at 


known by the artificial Italianization of his name to "Leoni". Leoni was not the 
Hazzan; rather, he served as the "Meshorer", a tenor, who, together with the 
incumbent Hazzan (Polack, at the time) and a bass, would form an ad hoc trio 
that would offer improvisations on the Hazzan s efforts (and, occasionally, for 
example on Yom Kippur, take over from the Hazzan to afford him some rest). 
Leoni italianized his name to make more of an impression on the operatic 
stage. The Great Synagogue bound him in 1767 to a contract that prohibited 
his performance on the stage on Friday nights. But there was always a ten- 
sion between this side of his career and his service to the community. He 
became so successful as an operatic singer and recitalist that Gentiles came 
to hear him in the synagogue itself. The tension between Leoni s two careers 
came to a head when he was reported to the Great Synagogue Council for 
having taken a part in Handel's "Messiah". He never performed at the Great 
again 8 , and when his operatic career came to an end, he saw out his days in 
the musical service of the Jewish community of Kingston, Jamaica, where he 
died and was buried in 1796. 

Leoni s Yigdal tune attracted some unusual admirers. Its adoption for the 
tune of the Christian hymn The God of Abraham, Praise may be attributable 
entirely to the visit to the Great of John Wesley and Thomas Olivers in 1770. 9 
Mention should also be made of William Keith, organist from West Ham (in 
those days a small village well to the east of London — now long since overrun 
by the expansion of the city). Keith notated this and several other melodies and 
published them in 1780 under the title The Airs Sung at the Jews Synagogue. 
Keith's versions are instrumental reworkings, and although several melodies 
were notated and edited in this way, none but the Yigdal melody is recogniz- 
able today. 10 Keiths material has no words, other than designations in the 
music of when the "priest" (sic, referring to the Haz- 
zan) and when Leoni, respectively, would sing. It is, in 
effect, the only contemporary source we have that gives 
us perhaps some idea of the style and pace of music of 
the Great Synagogue in the Georgian era. 

One other Meshorer must be mentioned from this 
period, the even more illustrious John Braham. Leoni 

8 The sources I have consulted do not say when this was, but presumably some 
point in the late 1780s. 

9 Macy Nulmans Concise Encyclopedia of Jewish Music notes at p. 150 that the 
hymn text was created by Thomas Olivers in 1770. 

10 At least, not yet. This may form a research project for somebody interested in 
gaining a greater understanding of the music of the Great in the Georgian era. 


adopted him as a sort of family member and introduced him into the service 
of the Great in the 1780s. The picture on the previous page depicts Leoni and 
Braham in operatic costumes. 

The epoch also includes one other curio, always affec- 
tionately known as Byron's Hebrew Melodies. Lord Byron, 
the leading English poet from the turn of the 19th century, 
wrote a number of verses in collaboration with Isaac Na- 
than (pictured right) then a leading figure in Jewish and 
general music, which he set, using melodies taken from 
(or adapted from) the liturgy of the Great Synagogue 11 . Of 
the 24 melodies, only a few have so far been identified, the 
others having ceased to be used in the services many years 
ago and which are therefore now impossible to place. 

Two that are known are first of all a lilting melody for the half-Kaddish 
traditionally sung (even today) on Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot, 12 and a 
complicated A-B-C-D strophic tune for Yigdal (again!) which is still occasion- 
ally heard in England on Sukkot 13 . 

Down on the road from the Great Synagogue at Bevis Marks (pictured on 
the next page— this synagogue survived two World Wars and more recent 
terrorist events in the City, and is still very visitable), the 
Sephardi tradition had also developed a taste for more com- 
plex and structured music by this period. In 1931, the Bevis 
Marks Community published two volumes, bound as one and 
under the title of Sephardi Melodies, a substantial amount 
of choral material, some traditional and some composed or 
attributed. The first half derives from material arranged (and, in a few cases, 
composed) by David Aaron de Sola (pictured left), who served as both Rabbi 
and Hazzan 1815-60 14 , and which replicates material published by de Sola 

1 1 And that of Canterbury, where he grew up. 

12 A piece which has been erroneously attributed by some to Julius Mombach, of 
whom more below, but which is clearly no more recent than Nathans 1815 publication, 
and therefore most likely to be many years older. 

13 In Mombachs music (which we shall see was published posthumously and with 
no great attention to detail), this piece also appears as claimed for him. 

14 De Sola had a significant impact on Anglo-Jewish scholarship in general. To- 
wards the end of his life, his publications included official translations into English of 
both the Sephardi and Ashkenazi siddur and festival prayerbooks, several volumes of 
the Mishnah, the Book of Genesis (intended as the first volume of the entire Tanakh 
but never completed) and numbers of historical and philosophical works to boot. 


and Emanuel Aguilar originally in 1857. The second includes rather more 
material by de Sola and by Hakham Dr. Artom (perhaps one of the most 
musically gifted men to have reached a senior rabbinical position in any 
community). There are also published two versions of de Solas most famous 
Adon Olam (he composed several). The better-known is that from KolRinah 
V'Todah (where the original was taken and rearranged/simplified for use in 
the Ashkenazi services, where it is still a firm favourite in the UK). But for a 
comparison, one might check the original version from Bevis Marks as well. 

The Victorian era 

Queen Victoria came to the throne as a 
young girl of 18 in 1837, and her reign of 64 
years is the longest of any British monarch, 
before or since. This was a period which 
saw a significant change in the position of 
Britain's Jews. A community in the 18 th and 
early 19 th centuries that had been tolerated 
though hardly encouraged (and viewed with 
suspicion or even with xenophobic aggres- 
sion at times of war) gradually acquired 
more rights for itself. Numbers of Jews (both 
of the patrician Sephardi community and 
the more recently settled Ashkenazi com- 
munity) were able to enter public life and 
succeed in the arts, business, commerce, and even politics. Much of the 
Ashkenazi community had developed in the 18th and early 19th centuries 
from movement of Jews from Germany to Britain (until 1837, when the suc- 
cession laws in the Electorate of Hannover prevented Queen Victoria from 
succeeding her uncle William IV to that position, Britain was in effect united 
with a large part of what is North Germany today 15 ). 

Towards the end of the Victorian era, the United Kingdom (especially 
London, but in good measure its other great cities and ports as well) found 
itself becoming home to a new Jewish immigration, from Poland, Lithuania 
and Russia. 

15 Had there not been such a difference in succession laws, barring a female 
niece from succeeding in Germany in place of a remoter male relative, it is a matter 
for speculation just how different European history might have been in the 19th and 
20th centuries. 



The Victorian epoch as far as Anglo-Jewish music is concerned actu- 
ally has its seeds in the end of the Georgian. In 1827, The Great Synagogue 
sought a new cantor, and appointed one Enoch Elias (or Eliasson), 16 who, as 
a condition of his appointment, was required to bring with him a boy singer. 

He brought with him from Germany 
a youngster of 14 called Julius Lazarus 
(Israel Eliezer) Mombach (pictured left, 
in mature years, from the photo that is 
found in the preface to the posthumous 
publication of his music). Elias came from 
Darmstadt in Hesse, and Mombach from 
the smaller town of Pfungstadt, just to the 
south of Darmstadt. Interestingly, though 
Elias lasted two years in post (according 
to Cecil Roths History of the Great Syna- 
gogue he neglected a chill that affected his 
voice; he remained in London as musical 
director of the Lyceum Theatre), Mom- 
bach stayed on at the Great. 

The Great appointed Solomon Ascher of Groningen as its next cantor in 
1832, 17 with Mombach alongside as Meshorer and a bass, making up the 
conventional trio, known as Jehiel of Hanau. Finally, in 1841, the trio was 
replaced with a proper choir, formed at the instigation of Henry Hyman 
Cohen and directed by Mombach himself. 

We know less about Mombach than we probably ought to, considering 
the impact he made on the community. His marriage was childless and his 
wife predeceased him by 17 years. He published nothing in his lifetime, even 
though he seems to have been urged to do so. Within a year of his death, Mo- 
ses Keizer 18 had rushed into print a volume entitled Ne'irn Zmiros Yisroel and 
purporting to set down all of Mombachs compositions and arrangements. The 
two-page preface affords us the best (and that is a relative term) biographi- 

16 Renton, The Lost Synagogues of London (Tymsder Publishing, 2000) names 
him as Binom Elias. 

17 Roth, History of the Great Synagogue (out of print but available online at www. htm describes him as a "... fine, clear tenor, 
whose florid style of recitative with frequent roulades long remained a beloved memory 
with London Jews." Ascher remained in post to 1871. 

18 Renton, op.. cit. } records him as the Hazzan Sheni of the Great Synagogue 


Marci's Hast, 
erderGmrtSynagaBue. London flfl-40-191 1). 

cal data we have for Mombach. Nor is the music any more thorough: much 
of it is not Mombach s own even though it is implicitly or explicitly claimed 
for him; and more besides that was composed by Mombach was left out. In 
his 39 years as choirmaster at the Great (overlapping with a period where 
his services were sought simultaneously at the New Synagogue as well), he 
clearly attained institutional status. 19 Keizer s preface to Ne'im Zmiros Yisroel 
claims Mombachs music excelled all in standard except that of the iconic 
Sulzer, who was his equal. 20 

I would also like to mention two later arrivals on the 
London scene, Marcus Hast and Chaim Wasserzug. Hast 
(pictured left) was Polish-born, and had served as cantor 
in Warsaw and Breslau. He was apparently both a Talmu- 
die scholar of note and a competent pianist/composer. 
Hast left us four volumes of his music, entitled Seder 
Hoavodah, published at various stages of his London 
career. 21 The preface to one of the later volumes claims 
for this publication a unique position in Synagogue mu- 
sic, although he was neither the first in Anglo-Jewry to 
publish in this way (Wasserzug, for one, preceded his pub- 
lications—see below), and nor is his compositional style 
either strikingly original or apparently talented. Maybe that is a harsh judg- 
ment, but on balance, the better pieces of Hast have made it into Kol Rinah 
V'Todah (British Jews encounter examples constantly) but his volumes nowa- 
days remain largely on the shelf rather then the music stand. 

Wasserzug is somewhat similar. He was the son of a cantor from a small 
town in Western Poland. Written evidence (for he died before the recording 
age) suggests that he was one of the greatest singers from Mainland Europe 
of his generation. He spent 5 years as cantor in Lomza, near Warsaw (hence 
his other nickname, Chaim Lomzer), and introduced four-part choral sing- 

19 Roth, op. cit, informs that he would enter the Shabbat service at the Great 
during the reading of the Haftarah and the congregation would rise in his honour as 
he did so. 

20 Roth, op. cit., repeats this assertion. I am not sure what Lewandowski in Berlin 
and Naumbourg in Paris would have had to say concerning this suggestion; however, 
Sulzer, Lewandowski, Mombach and Naumbourg (probably in that order) rank as the 
foremost contributors to the mid- 19th century synagogue music tradition, and far 
excel their respective contemporaries. 

21 Hast served as Chief Hazzan at the Great from 1872 until his death in 1911. Ac- 
cording to Renton, op. cit, his musical offerings included two oratorios and a cantata, 
but no further information is provided. 


ing there against fierce Hasidic opposition. He came to London to join other 
members of his family in the 1860s and served as the first cantor of the newly 
opened North London Synagogue (Lofting Road, Barnsbury, 1868). A rather 
nice engraving from The Graphic for 1872 pictures the scene on Sukkot at 
the North London Synagogue, and although there are no names of persons 
illustrated, the cantor figure in the top right hand corner of the picture must 
be Wasserzug. This is the only known image of him to survive. He published 
his life's music in 1878, and died rather suddenly in 1882, aged not quite 60. 22 
Again, musically, his singing probably exceeded in quality his compositional 
style. The more memorable pieces of Wasserzug's have found their way into 
KolRinah V'Todah. 

Outside of London the contribution of Abraham Saqui 
at the Prince s Road Synagogue in Liverpool is particularly 
noteworthy. And of equal importance musically were the 
efforts of Charles Kensington Salaman (pictured right) and 
his collaborators at the West London Synagogue, the United 
Kingdom's first Reform Synagogue. 23 

Turning back to the Orthodox tradition briefly, a noteworthy development 
of the Victorian period was the formation of the United Synagogue movement. 
Initially comprising just 5 congregations, this rapidly became the dominant 
movement within Anglo-Jewish Orthodoxy. 24 The community produced its 

22 Two sons served Anglo-Jewry musically in different ways. David Wasserzug 
became the minister of the Dalston Synagogue for a number of years until his death in 
1918. Ivan Warren composed music which is still in use at the West London Synagogue 

23 There is a history of the first 1 50 years of the West London Synagogue at www. uk/London/wls/history.htm which on a connected page lists minis- 
ters and wardens but not cantors or musicians. There is less information on the web for 
Salaman (1814-1901) than there ought to be, considering that he had a distinguished 
career in Victorian times as composer, pianist and conductor (Wikipedia offers pages 
for his sister Julia Gordon and her son William, who were both distinguished painters). 
Nor is there much to be found in relation to Claude Verrinder, the gentile organist at 
the West London Synagogue, with whom Salaman collaborated. 

24 In effect, it still is: the London Beth Din and the Chief Rabbi are its organs; 
the standard prayerbook is published under its auspices, and so forth. Undoubtedly, 
though, its position has been eroded in more recent years, as orthodoxy has lurched 
rightwards, and this has had a particularly wearing effect on matters musical, since 
even large and ostensibly prosperous communities feign poverty of resource or altered 
priorities when it comes to appointment of competent cantors and singers to perpetu- 
ate the traditional music of our communal ancestors. 


own standard prayerbook in 1892 — successor editions to which are still in 
use today. It is perhaps noteworthy that fully five years before this, an official 
music service book was produced, under the title of Kol Rinah V'Todah 
("The Voice of Praise and Prayer"). The preface to the 1899 second edition 
(the first having appeared in 1887) offers a commentary on the purpose of 
the volume, the attitude to choral singing and training (especially in view of 
the involvement of boy singers who would be tutored through the Hebrew 
schooling system) and the need to ensure variety in the music (so that the 
same material is not used every week) all make for very interesting reading 
from a social history perspective. 

The 1899 edition of Kol Rinah V'Todah benefited from the services of the 
highly musical Rabbi Francis Lyon Cohen 25 and David M. Davis. Davis was 
around to work on the preparation of the third edition, which eventually 
appeared in 1933, a year after he passed away, and had the benefit in that 
time of the excellent musical ministrations of Samuel Alman. Aside from 
correcting a few errors for its 1948 re-impression, Kol Rinah V'Todah has 
not been touched since. 26 

Into the Twentieth Century 

The final stage in this journey takes us to the period immediately prior to 
World War I and runs on, in effect, to the eve of World War II. Mombach 
died in 1880, Wasserzug in 1882 and Hast in 1911. Their music settled into 
the fabric of Anglo- Jewish tradition, where the better pieces have remained 
ever since. Regardless of their original backgrounds, they found themselves 
obliged to contribute music of a Victorian/Edwardian confidence that suited 
the general confidence of the pre-WWI Britain that became their home. This 

25 Initially cantor/minister at the Borough Synagogue, one of the first to be founded 
in the new community developing just to the south of the River Thames, but by the 
date of the republication, already based in New South Wales, Australia. 

26 The last republication, which is still widely available and referred to, was in 1980, 
and aside from changing the familiar blue binding to a black one, it made no changes at 
all. There were informal plans in 1995 to review it, revise the content, include new mate- 
rial and discard much that is no longer used etc., the significance of 1995 being the 125th 
anniversary of the United Synagogue. My father, Victor Tunkel, had some involvement 
with this. According to him, the individual who was supposed to have been mastermind- 
ing the musical assembly involved, apparently lost a lot of material when he suffered a 
computer crash. He never got around to restoring it, and that is where matters stand. 
Frankly, given the degraded state of musicianship in Orthodox shuls in the UK today, a 
revision of this music is altogether rather unlikely now. 


was the music of the Jewish community of the World s greatest empire. And 
even as, in later Victorian times, the Great Synagogue ceased to be the com- 
munity for London's expanding and proliferating Jewish community, much 
of the classical music of Mombach, etc. was carried to the newly emerging 
synagogues and communities that were beginning to flourish as London 
itself expanded. 

Layer onto this a very different Jewish immigration, that from Poland and 
Russia. In the 1880s, Jews started to arrive in the UK by the boatload, escaping 
from the rampages of the Tsar and the pogroms that his loyalists either encour- 
aged or executed. They brought music which was much more "dark brown" 
in texture. The cantorial style was more florid, and the choral underpinning 
was more insistent and less jaunty. The East End of London began to brim 
full of little synagogues, each with a cantor and many with choirs (the darker 
melos of East European Jewry had nevertheless embraced with enthusiasm 
Sulzer s choral innovations as a concept). Yiddish was their lingua franca and 
shul music started to take on board the hue of Yiddish folk song. 27 

While numbers of cantors came to the UK, either temporarily before reach- 
ing America or to settle and make their careers, in terms of contribution to 
the music and compositions they used, there is one name that dominates 
this period: Samuel Alman. He came from Podolia originally, and arrived 
in London in the first years of the 20th century, leaving behind a career (if 
you can call it that...) as a bandsman with the Tsar s army. Alman anglicised 
himself, obtained an ARCM degree from the London Schools of Music, rose 
to prominence at the Great Synagogue, and aspired throughout to a greater 
degree of general musical recognition. As well as his two volumes of synagogue 
compositions (Shirei Beit HaKnesset 1925 and 1938) and a great number of 
part songs, Almans musical credits include the Ebreica String Quartet, a num- 
ber of organ preludes and, most importantly of all, KingAhaz, the only grand 
opera ever written in Yiddish. It had four performances at a Yiddish theatre 
in the East End in 1912 before closing after losing some £8,000 (a very large 
sum for those days). 

27 Doubtless with a view to the development of Anglo-Jewish musical usages, 
the arrival of new music from Europe (new, at any rate, to the UK) and the changes 
in fashion, it was in the early 1930s that the United Synagogue commissioned David 
M. Davis and others to work on a new edition oiKolRinah V'Todah, which appeared 
in print in 1933, a year after Davis passed away. He was the link to the preceding edi- 
tion in 1899, and to the date of his death served as choirmaster at the New West End 
Synagogue. The new edition contains some of his compositions, but it is proper to 
regard Davis as essentially a member of the Victorian/Edwardian age rather than the 
phase which followed it and which Alman dominated. 




The illustration to the right is from a cassette of selected 
arias from King Ahaz (and songs from Shostakovich's 
Song Cycle from Jewish Folk Poetry), released in London 
inl984. 28 

The Anglo-Jewish musical tradition has rather fossilized 
from this point onwards. No singers, composers, choir- 
masters or musical directors of the stature of Alman have 
arisen since his death in 1947. Choirs of men and boys in 
the Orthodox tradition have disappeared (it being rather 
difficult to persuade boys to train for these enterprises when there are so 
many other distractions and demands on their time). And the cantorate itself 
is in a poor state of health. Indeed, there is only one Orthodox Synagogue in 
London (and none outside) with a full-time cantor (St Johns Wood, where 
Cantor Moshe Haschel still serves with distinction). Home-grown talent is 
difficult to find, and priorities in synagogues with complex and restricted 
budgets now do not favour the cantor and his music any longer. Indeed, the 
larger Orthodox communities have fragmented, to the point where five or six 
different services, designed to appeal to varied tastes in worship, take place 
each Shabbat or festival on the same campus. 

For all that, there is considerable reverence for the traditional music of 
the Anglo- Jewish tradition. Few people outside the ranks of the cantors and 
singers can tell you who wrote which particular pieces or tunes, but there 
are a great many that are still sung (congregationally, if not with choir and 
soloists). Much of the classical music of the Anglo-Jewish tradition (including 
Mombach, Alman, Hast and the whole oiKolRinah v'Todah 1933 edition) 
can be downloaded in MIDI format from 

Daniel Tunkel is a lawyer who maintains keen involvement with Jewish music 
activity in London and New York. He can be reached at daniel. tunkel@>sjberwin. 
com . This article originated as handout notes to accompany a workshop session at 
the 18 th Annual North American Jewish Choral Festival, July 8-12, 2007. 

28 King Ahaz has once more started to attract some interest. I participated in De- 
cember 2006 in a concert with London's Zemel Choir at the Purcell Room in London's 
South Bank Centre, where the choir with soloists performed a rather vibrant chorus 
scene from Act 2 of the Opera (dealing with the rather distasteful subject of Moloch- 
worship!), and soloists Eliot Alderman (tenor), Ben Siefert (bass) and Gwendolen 
Burton (soprano) entertained with solo arias from elsewhere in the score. 


Nothing New Under the Sun: 

What's Still Wrong with Our Synagogues? 

by Shoshana Brown 

Having fixed my mind on the presumptuous task of writing the definitive essay 
on what s wrong with shul today?— I start to get a creeping feeling. Someone 
else has beaten me to it, and probably in a fashion that I could never equal. 
I go to my bookshelf and pull down a wonderful collection of writings by 
Abraham Joshua Heschel, and find a much-underlined and margin-starred 
essay in which Heschel writes: 1 

Our services are conducted with pomp and precision. The rendition of 
the liturgy is smooth. Everything is present: decorum, voice, ceremony. 
But one thing is missing: life. One knows in advance what will ensue. 
There will be no surprise, no adventure of the soul; there will be no sudden 
burst of devotion. Nothing is going to happen to the soul. Nothing 
unpredictable must happen to the person who prays. He will attain no 
insight into the words he reads; he will attain no new perspective for 
the life he lives. Our motto is monotony. What was will be, and there 
is nothing new in the synagogue. The fire has gone out of our worship. 
It is cold, stiff, and dead. Inorganic Judaism... The services are prim, the 
voice is dry, the synagogue is clean and tidy, and the soul of prayer lies in 
agony. You know no one will scream, no one will cry, the words will be 
still-born... Assembled in the synagogue everything is there-the body, 
the benches, the books. But one thing is absent: soul. It is as if they all 
suffered from spiritual absenteeism. In good prayer, words become one 
with the soul. Yet in our synagogues, people who are otherwise sensitive, 
vibrant, arresting, sit there aloof, listless, lazy. The dead do not praise 
God. Those who are spiritually dull cannot praise the Lord. 

It seems nothing much has changed. And yet, our true calling— as cantors, 
cantorial students, cantorial soloists, as rabbis and as lay worship-leaders — is 
to try and raise these dry bones and make them live again! But first we have 
to look at why they died. As a part-time cantorial soloist, a cantorial intern 
with the Cantors Assembly, a cantorial student with the Alliance for Jewish 
Renewal (Aleph), and as a member of a suburban Conservative synagogue, 
I get the opportunity to experience and to study— kivyakhol— this phenom- 
enon from a number of different angles. Of course we now live in a "post- 
B nai Jeshurun" world, where droves of synagogues — both Conservative and 

1 "The Spirit of Jewish Prayer," Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity, Susannah 
Heschel, ed. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux), 1996: 100-103; originally published 
in Proceedings of the Rabbinical Assembly of America, vol 17, 1953. 


Reform, and perhaps some Reconstructionist and certainly non-affiliated 
congregations-all want to jump on the bandwagon (or, rather, bring the 
bandwagon into the sanctuary) and host "Friday Night Live" services. Many 
cantors and rabbis are now trying, even on Shabbat morning, to slip in some 
freylekh and easily-learned tunes by the late Reb Shlomo Carlebach, by Deb- 
bie Friedman, Craig Taubman, Shefa Gold and other contemporary Jewish 
composers. Despite the hue and cry amongst some of our number about 
the "dumbing down" of the service, by and large I would say this is all to the 
good. Let prayer be alive; let the people dance, let them clap, let them praise 
God with all their bonesl 

But let s also face facts. Out here in the suburbs these services are few and 
far between; and they all too frequently have a feeling of artificiality to them. 
"Oh, we re supposed to dance now! Look, the rabbi is trying to lead us around 
the sanctuary; come on, let s have 'fun [like those people on the Upper West 
Side]." I work at a small shul with a Renewal rabbi-in-training. He is one 
of the most sincere, heartfelt ovdei HaShem I have ever been privileged to 
know. But we cater to young, mostly wealthy Long Island families who put a 
premium on seeing their sons and daughters become b'nei mitzvah, and we 
are so busy running these showcase-services for their offspring that there 
is no time (or space; our sanctuary is still very small) to cultivate a rhythm 
of regular services with a regular kahal of folk who are there simply for the 
sake of the worship of God. The rabbi has me strumming guitar, beating my 
djumbek? singing all the heartfelt alternative tunes you could want, but in 
truth I am more likely to feel a bit of a pulse from the congregation when I 
intone the old-fashioned tunes for Bin Kamokha.Aleinu, or Adon Olam. Why? 
Because the only people in attendance who know any of the songs or prayers 
are the grandparents and great-grandparents of these young bnei mitzvah\ 
Everyone else — so beautifully turned out with their expensive suits and per- 
fect nails— sits and listens. It is not worship; it is a show-or to be kinder, a 
celebration like a graduation or a wedding. They come to support the child 
and the family (and certainly to celebrate with them at the subsequent party). 
That is the only reason they are there; they have not come out of a felt need 
to connect to the power source that vivifies all existence. 

My first job as a cantorial soloist on Long Island was at a small Reconstruc- 
tionist congregation-a heimish place where the politics were ultra-liberal 
and the people were down to earth. I liked this community a lot, and by and 
large they liked me. But they did not like to pray! They liked to study, debate, 
discuss, hold book groups and fun-filled social fund-raisers. But they did 

2 Small hand drum. 


not "get" prayer, and can you blame them? The less-than-dL-rninyan of faith- 
ful regulars were taught by the rabbi that prayer is really an "inner dialogue ," 
in which we remind ourselves of what we need to do to repair the world. Of 
course this is true to a certain extent, and a noble sentiment. But who needs 
to go and sit in a synagogue for two or more hours on a beautiful Saturday 
morning in order to have an "inner dialogue?" Why not have it on one of our 
world-class beaches, or, if we re really serious about this "repairing" business, 
at a political rally, or a soup kitchen? 

In the Conservative shut where I go to pray simply as a congregant, I am 
impressed by the much higher number of regulars who come simply because 
it is Shabbat. But it amazes me that they are satisfied with a service in which, 
as Heschel writes, "there will be no surprise, no adventure of the soul. .nothing 
unpredictable must happen." I suspect that, like me, they come to connect 
as a community. Many of us do not arrive until well into the Torah service. 
"Goldberg comes to talk to God; I come to talk to Goldberg." There is some- 
thing sweet, and honest, about this old joke. If I want to take my time with 
my t'fillah, and to sing my soul out, I'd better stay at home and daven alone. 
But I take seriously Rabbi Hillels teaching, al tifrosh min ha-tsibbur? and once 
a week (if I am not working a bar mitzvah) I go to talk to Goldberg. 

Well, whom have I not picked on yet? Ah, there's my holy hevra the Jew- 
ish Renewal crowd! Indeed, amongst my cantorial- and rabbinical-student 
colleagues, and amongst our esteemed teachers, there are so many whose 
spiritual practices and energies I am nourished and awed by. That being said, 
it is not infrequent that a Renewal-style service (which you may experience at 
the Jewish retreat center, Elat Chayyim, if there is no Renewal kahal in your 
area) may strike one as just "too much fun." I admit it, we are "spiritual ecstasy" 
junkies! But sometimes one needs to descend from the "high," to get down 
and deep with God, and to connect in a livable way that you can do even on a 
weekday, even alone and away from the drums and the dancing throngs. And 
truly Renewal services vary tremendously, depending on whether they are 
led by some of Renewals most learned, serious practitioners, or by a Renewal 
"newbie" in his/her living room, who may be full of earnestness and true love 
of God, but have next to no understanding of the siddur, the matbei'a* or the 
way Jewish liturgy is supposed to work. 

The problem is, in so many places, it isn't working. And why is this? When 
I think back on some of the most satisfying Jewish liturgical experiences I've 
had in the 20-plus years since my conversion (and some of these were before 

3 "Do not separate yourself from the community" (Pirkei Avot 2: 4 -5). 

4 Statutory parts of the liturgy. 


my actual conversion), I ask myself: what did these davening experiences have 
in common? It was the joyful energy, and the commitment of the worship- 
ers-not to ffillah only, but to living a Jewish, and largely observant Jewish 
life. Some of these services were in Yerushalayim, in places like Baka a and 
French Hill, or at Machon Pardes where I studied for a year; and then there 
was the Orthodox minyan at Harvard Hillel in Cambridge; and some were 
amongst the JTS-community when I was a graduate student there, living on 
the Upper West Side. Now I frequently experience exquisite services when 
I congregate with my fellow "smikhah-student" colleagues at various Jewish 
Renewal functions. This latter group does not-on the whole-share the same 
intensity of commitment to traditional halakhah as the other groups men- 
tioned, but their commitment to learning, to tikkun olam, and to nurturing 
their personal spiritual lives brings a similar kind of oomph and authenticity 
to their joy in davening. Most of these groups, by the way, functioned with- 
out any official rabbinic or cantorial leadership per se. They were, however, 
liberally sprinkled with rabbis, cantors, or clergy- in-training. 

So what do I make of this? Why do Heschels words ring as true today as 
they did over fifty years ago? Some things don t change. It takes a lot of work 
and commitment to live a serious Jewish life, especially a God-centered one. 
Perhaps within the mainstream and right-of-mainstream Orthodox world 
there are a good number of individuals who live an observant life out of fear, 
superstition, or guilt (rather than out of a freely-chosen commitment); never 
having felt comfortable in that world, I never lingered there long enough to find 
out. What all the groups I mentioned above have in common is self- selection. 
All the young and not-so-young adults with whom I have fond memories of 
davening, and whose davening was so deep or so joyous, were there because 
they wanted to be there, and to be no where else! They were driven by love 
and passion: their welcoming of Shabbat haMalkah on Erev Shabbat, and 
their lusty singing of Nishmat Kol Hai on Shabbat morning were the joyful 
outpourings of their souls at the end of a week during which they had worked 
hard to do mitzvot and keep God in their consciousness all week long. 

You can bring in the guitars, the drums, the tambourines; you can hire Craig 
Taubman and his band as your special musical guest for a unique Shabbaton. 
You can hire famous speakers or Torah-teachers, you can go on retreat, do 
havdalah on the beach.. .but in the end, all these things are only, at best, tools 
to get people to "taste, and see that the Lord is good!" At worst, they are gim- 
micks that synagogue members can boast about ("Our shul brought/?// in the 
blank currently-popular-spiritual-teacher's name out for a Shabbatonl"), a 


kind of "status symbol ," but hardly a sign of how they are going to live their 
lives the rest of the week. 

Heschel, in response to suggestions for ameliorating the problem of low 
synagogue attendance with the institution of specially-designated Shabba- 
tot, such as "Boy Scouts Sabbath" "Jewish War Veterans Sabbath" etc. (we 
all know the trick of ear-marking certain Shabbatot for certain grades of the 
religious school, where they "lead" or make "presentations"), remarks wryly, 
"Why not a Sabbath Sabbath?" He goes on to emphasize, "Spiritual problems 
cannot be solved by administrative techniques" Our current-day efforts to 
solve our spiritual malaise through musical or other techniques to enliven 
our worship are somewhat more to the point, but in the end they are still 
"techniques." In truth, I can only think of two things that can lift us up out 
of the doldrums, bringing authenticity to our group prayer, and these two 
things are actually the same thing. 

They are not easy to come by. They cannot be purchased out of the rabbi s 
or cantors discretionary funds. They cannot be won by the hard work of 
the ritual committee. They have little to do with the synagogue s attendance 
numbers or the health of its coffers. They are: 

1. The commitment of the individual congregant to loving God with 
all his/her heart, soul, and strength; and 

2. The same commitment on the part of the rabbi/cantor and/or 
spiritual leaders, with an added emphasis on their daily prayer 

By this I don t mean simply going to daily minyan and being yotsei; I mean 
paying attention to the words they are saying to God each day; rejoicing with 
God, crying before God, attempting at some level a certain amount of d'veikut 
in their davening each day. No matter how beautiful the cantor s voice may 
be, no one is going to "get it" if it is just beautiful. Much better a simple con- 
gregational sh'li'ah tsibbur who transmits true piety, reverence, and simhah 
in coming into Gods presence than a Metropolitan Opera understudy! 

Can a renewal of piety and commitment to personal prayer with kavvanah 
on the part of the k'lei kodesh bring about a revolution in Jewish worship 
today? If you measure this by numbers (of people at a service, of families 
who join, etc.), the answer is very likely "hardly at all." But at a deeper, more 
serious level, I think the answer is "yes," and I am happy to say that I believe 
the revolution has already begun. More rabbinical and cantorial students, 
even ordained clergy, are studying spiritual direction than ever before. The 
subtitle of a recent article in The New York Jewish Week informs us that "grow- 


ing numbers of the liberal [Reform] movement s teens and young adults are 
embracing tradition, posing a challenge for leaders." 5 According to this article, 
about a quarter of the campers at a New York Reform summer camp, when 
confronted with a visiting musician who led the Friday evening prayers set 
to "an easy-listening jazz sound," walked out of the service. In small groups 
outside the main pavilion, they formed their own minyanim, in order to daven 
in a way that was more authentic for them. They didn't want jazz Shabbat; 
they just wanted Shabbat! They didn't want to be an audience; they wanted 
to be a kahal. 

Can such a renewal be brought about? Yes, but only by one individual 
at a time; and they must come to the water — and drink — by their own voli- 
tion. What is new about this? Nothing really. It's been the same since Rabbi 
Abraham Joshua Heschel's time, since the time of the Baal Shem Tov, since 
the time of the Hebrew Prophets, and since the days of Moshe Rabbeinu 
and Avraham Avinu as well. The one "new thing" of our day is that now 
women— like myself— can speak out about it as well. But that hardly changes 
the real issue. It may not be the whole of the solution, but if a commitment to 
connect authentically with God in prayer, on a daily basis, and to strive to live 
continually with the consciousness of being in the presence of God (through 
the observance of mitzvot throughout the week) are not the starting points, 
then all other "solutions" are doomed to fail. 

Many questions yet dangle: what about Hebrew literacy? Should we pray 
in the vernacular so that we will understand what we re saying? If so, what 
becomes of our awesome connection with the past, with our ancestors, and 
with Jews all over the world — and what of the mystery, beauty, and playfulness 
of the Hebrew language itself— that will be lost if/when we move away from 
Hebrew? If we stick with Hebrew, how can we possibly educate enough youth 
and adults at a serious — and sophisticated — enough level, so that they are 
not just getting the syllables correctly off the page of the siddur, but are also 
understanding what they are praying! How can we get them to give up enough 
of their time and energy to commit themselves to such serious study? 

What about the length of services? Do we really need so many prayers, so 
many words? Is it not perhaps better for a davener to say fewer words, fewer 
prayers, but say/chant/sing them more slowly, with more understanding, with 
greater kavannahl What about the "flow" of our services? Are our rabbis 
and cantors even trained to think about how to channel the energies of the 
tfillot in their fixed order in such a way as to maximize the effectiveness of 

5 Debra Nussbaum Cohen, "Reform Youth Flexing Their Ritual Muscle," The 
Jewish Week, August 10, 2007. 


the service s flow from "fore-pray" 6 to "pray" to "implore and thank" to group 
study (Torah reading and dvar Torah), and back out into the world again? 

These are serious issues, and there are scores of others that might be raised. 
But until we prayer-leaders take our own prayer lives-and our Jewish prac- 
tice-seriously, very little will actually change. However, there is hope. Jews 
starving for genuine spiritual nourishment, parched for a glimpse of "godli- 
ness" in their Jewish communities, can, like those young Reform campers, vote 
with their feet. It is up to us whether they will find what they are looking for 
with us, or whether they will walk out on us. But you can be sure that those 
who sincerely seek the Blessed Holy One will ultimately not be forsaken, as 
we are reminded every time we recite the familiar Ashrei (Psalm 145: 18; 
translation from Siddur Sim Shalom, 1985): 

The Lord is near to all who call, 

To all who call upon Him in truth. 

Is our task an easy one? Once again, Heschels words are profoundly— and 
perennially — true: "We must not think that kavvanah is a small matter. It 
requires effort, and we may fail more often than we succeed. But the battle 
for kavvanah must go on, if we are not to die of spiritual paralysis." 7 

Shoshana Brown serves as cantor at Simchat HaLev in Syosset, New York. She is 
enrolled in the Cantors Assembly Cantorial Internship program, and a student in 
the cantorial program of the Alliance for Jewish Renewal. Her book reviews and 
articles on Parashat HaShavua appear regularly in The Jerusalem Report. 

6 I am indebted to my teacher Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi for this felicitous 
coinage; but much more deeply indebted for his master- teaching in the field of "dav- 

7 Moral Grandeur, op. cit., p. 114. 


How My Being in the High Holiday Choir Turned Me 
into a Shul Goer 

By Raymond P. Scheindlin 

"You'll be in the choir" I was only about seven years old and didn't really 
understand what the old man was talking about; but with those words he sent 
me down the path that led, six decades later, to where I am this day. 

The pronouncement was made at the far end of our synagogues assembly 
hall. Mr. Russikov (I don t know how his last name is spelled and no one is left 
to ask) had told us three boys — me, Harry Blumberg, and Max Bliss — that he 
wanted to talk to us after Kiddush. While the handful of old men who made 
up the congregation were still gathered around the tiny table in front of the 
dais having a second schnapps with herring on Tarn Tarns and chattering in 
Yiddish, Mr. Russikov took us aside and told us each to sing "Aden Oilem," the 
hymn that comes at the end of the service. I don't remember which one of us 
went first, but when it was over, I was the chosen one— for this had turned 
out to be an audition to sing in the choir during the High Holiday services in 
the fall. 

My parents were instructed to purchase a copy of the "uniform" mahzor 
of Brith Sholom (nominally Conservative — but served by Orthodox rabbis) 
Community Center in Philadelphia. This was the Orthodox High Holiday 
prayer book compiled by British chief Rabbi Hermann Adler, a two-volume 
set with Hebrew and English on facing pages, accompanied by a copy of 
the S'lihot service, a ratty pamphlet densely packed from end to end with 
all-Hebrew print. My parents authorized the shammash, Mr. Russikov, to 
procure the books, and when they arrived, my mother inscribed my name 
and address on the inside cover of the Adler Mahzor and on the first page of 
the S'lihot pamphlet. Inside, Mr. Russikov had marked certain passages in 
ink: one in the Selihot service, two in the Rosh HaShanah service, and one in 
the service for Yom Kippur. The meaning of these markings became clear on 
Saturday after services, when Mr. Russikov instructed me (but not Harry or 
Max) to meet with him during Kiddush. The markings indicated my solos, 
which Mr. Russikov proceeded to teach me. Each Saturday, he and I would 
return from the assembly hall to the now-empty sanctuary, where he would 
sing my solos to me and make me repeat them until I knew them. I had to 
do more than get the notes and word right — with the shriveled, cigarette- 
stained, yet translucent index fingers of both hands, he would conduct me 


as I sang, enforcing what I now know to call phrasing — matching the tunes 
to the meaning of the words. 

In summer, choir rehearsals began. Once a week, my mother would drive 
me to the cantor s house in the immigrant neighborhood and take her place 
with the ladies — the wives of the cantor and of the adult choir members — on 
the porch, where they would sit and gossip, while we, the singers, would gather 
around the square steel table covered with oilcloth that occupied the space 
between the sink and the stove in the center of the cantor s kitchen. A the 
sinks end sat Cantor Pavalow, a bony, gray-haired elderly man, before him a 
huge mahzor with big black lettering and pages greasy and crumpled in the 
lower corners from decades of being pinched between the fingers for turning. 
Facing him at the stove end sat the choir leader, a round-faced middle-aged 
man with black hair. On one side sat the tenor and the bass, and facing them 
sat I and Harvey, the cantor s son. We sang in four parts, with the choir leader 
conducting us, cueing us, and giving our pitches. In my case, the cues were 
absolutely essential, as I had no idea of the order or contents of the service, 
and probably couldn't even read Hebrew very fluently at that stage. 

Most of the choir s work consisted in humming chords as background to 
the cantors singing. Typically, when he would come to the end of a phrase, 
we would hit a chord that harmonized it, and he would sing the next phrase 
against the background of that chord until his melody forced a change of 
harmony, and we would oblige by shifting to another chord. Sometimes 
we would start the chord by repeating the last word of the phrase after the 
cantor. There were a few composed four-part pieces, the only one of which 
I can remember was a setting of the first paragraph of the U-N'taneh Tokef, 
of which more later. There was a duet for me and Harvey. And there were 
my four solos. 

Philadelphia is always hot and humid in the summer, and ordinary people 
did not yet have air conditioning; I did not even hear of it until a few years later, 
when we moved to the suburbs. There were nights when I would lie awake 
dripping in my bed, the hot pillow shoved aside and my head pressed against 
the bit of wall under the open window, waiting for the air to stir, listening to 
a rustling leaf and hoping that the puff of air that moved it would reach me. 
In the cantors kitchen, the air was close, with the four sweating men and the 
two boys crowded around the table with its sticky oilcloth surface. From the 
cooler porch, the women could be heard chatting in a mixture of Yiddish and 
English as we worked. 

Harvey and I hated each other. Perhaps the heat made us short-tempered, 
or perhaps it was having to keep still for so long at the end of the day. I found 


him revolting, for his hands holding the mahzor as he sat on my left had warts 
on the backs and his fingernails were chewed to the quick. But perhaps the 
real reason I was angry was that he knew what was going on and I didn't, 
or perhaps it was an early case of singers' competitiveness. The rancor was 
mutual, and it grew to the point that at one rehearsal we ended up fighting, 
really fighting, with fists, and somehow he came out of it with a bloody nose. 
How this could possibly have happened is a mystery to me, because I was 
the softest boy who ever lived, and don t remember there being any free time 
in which such a fight could have occurred. Maybe there was a break in the 
rehearsal, and we went outside to cool off and got into a wrangle. Bloodying 
his nose made me feel good, though I couldn't escape the feeling that it had 
happened by accident so that I didn t really deserve to pat myself on the back. 
I don t remember getting into trouble over it. Since I was a goody-goody and 
he was a rough kid, he probably got blamed. 

Summer passed. One night my mother woke me around 11 PM and got 
me dressed in my itchy suit, and the three of us trundled off in our prewar 
Chevy to the shul. It was the night of S'lihot, the Saturday night before Rosh 
HaShanah, the beginning of the liturgical season of the High Holidays. Slihot 
begins with the psalm, Ashrei, and one of my solos occurred toward the end 
of the psalm, so mine must have been the first voice heard after the cantors 
that holiday season. I can only imagine the nakhes this must have caused my 
parents and the old folks who were the shul regulars, and the envy and anger 
it must have caused any of the other young parents— like two of my aunts 
and my uncle — who happened to be present. 

The services of the High Holidays are long and our shul did not have a 
choir loft. Despite the imposing name of Brith Sholom Community Center, 
our shul was a tiny, makeshift operation in a partly renovated 19th-century 
brick schoolhouse beside a train track. It had no staff but a rabbi and a jani- 
tor, and of course it did not have a permanent cantor or a choir, but only a 
hired freelance cantor and his choir for the High Holidays. What had been 
the schoolyard was an untended no-man s land overgrown with weeds that 
had almost become trees. On the second floor were classrooms (separated 
by ancient movable walls called "sashes" covered with blackboard on each 
side) and a tiny rabbis office piled with Hebrew-school textbooks and old 
World Over magazines; and on the third, a tiny kitchen with neat stacks 
of glass dishes. The ground floor consisted of a central hall flanked by two 
large rooms— the assembly hall with a portrait of the late President Franklin 
Roosevelt over the dais, and the sanctuary. The railroad tracks ran alongside 
the sanctuary wall, right outside the window, probably close enough to take 


your hand off if you reached out while a train was passing. Trains didn't pass 
often, but from time to time they did, obliterating the service. 

The sanctuary couldn't have seated more than a hundred in its rows of 
movie-theater-type seats. The bimah was a dais occupying one end of the 
room and separated from it by a wooden railing, furnished with a large reading 
table in the center facing the ark, a lectern to the left facing the congregation, 
and the flags of the United States and of Palestine (since May of that year: 
Israel), at the extreme right and left. We singers stood as we had sat in the 
cantors kitchen: the cantor, in the narrow space between the railing and the 
reading table facing the ark; the leader, facing him, with his back to the ark 
and the rest of us around the reading table. 

It was hard to stand still for so long, especially since, unlike the other mem- 
bers of the choir, I didn t know how to participate in the praying part of the 
service. For long stretches I would shift my weight from one leg to the other, 
fidget with the fringes of my tallit, and occupy myself by rubbing the nap of 
fuzzy white cloth that covered the reading table, waiting for the choir's turn 
to hum a chord, sing a tune, or deliver one of its set pieces. Now and then 
the leader would point to me, and I would perform one of my solos or do the 
duet with the hated Harvey, then to sink back into boredom and daydream- 
ing. During the stretches when I wasn't needed, the leader took pity on me 
and whispered that I might sit down for a while on one of the two thrones 
that stood beside the ark and relieve my aching legs. 

I spent a lot of the time watching the cantor. He wore a white gown and a 
huge crown-shaped white satin headdress (somewhat frayed) with a tassel, 
and carried a tuning fork and a handkerchief. It was shocking to see him 
throw himself to the floor during Aleinu, deflating to see him looking up at 
us from the floor, supporting himself with one hand and waving at us with 
the tuning fork in the other to keep us all chanting together. I wish I could 
remember what happened to that white satin crown during Aleinu and the 
other prostrations that occur in the course of the High Holiday services; I 
don't see how it could have stayed on as he fell, but I also don't remember 
him removing it in preparation for the prostration. 

At one point in the service the cantor disappeared from the bimah, and 
when I looked up, he was standing at the sanctuary's rear entrance beginning 
the prayer I now know as Hin'ni. This is the emotional moment when the 
cantor proclaims, "Here am I, worthless, terrified, and panic-stricken for fear 
of the God of Israel." His face was contorted— with the emotion described 
in the text? — from concentrating on the complicated music? out of pious 
awe? stage fright? — as he moved down the center aisle chanting the prayer 


in fantastic minor-key melismas against the sustained chords that we were 
holding over from each cadence. The congregation, which had been restless, 
now listened, rapt. But, though this prayer was intended to be the cantors 
alone, they did not listen in silence, for the tension generated by the chant had 
to be released. Each time he would reach the end of a phrase and we would 
hit a chord, the congregation would chime in, too, especially the old men, 
who knew and probably understood the words, singing the last word of the 
phrase along with him and with us. He reached the bimah dabbing his face 
with the handkerchief as the congregation stood for the majestic Kaddish 
introducing the next part of the service. When the moment in the Kaddish 
came for them to sing the response, all the energy pent up during the Hin'ni 
was released, and the sanctuary itself seemed to sing with them. It was a 
moment that impressed itself on me for the rest of my life. Luckily, no train 
happened to pass by during that moment. 


Some twenty-five years later, I moved with my young family to Cobble 
Hill, Brooklyn, and took up a position as professor of Hebrew literature at 
the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan. We attended services every 
Saturday together at Congregation Baith Israel Anshei Emet, known as the 
Kane Street Shul. Once a grand and important congregation, the shul had 
been in a decades-long decline that began to reverse itself in the early seven- 
ties thanks to an influx of young professionals who rediscovered city life and 
revived the shul when it was on the point of closing. 

Most of the congregants at that time had only a rudimentary Jewish educa- 
tion, but I was at home with them; I preferred their lay enthusiasm and relaxed 
religious ways to the more self-conscious and ideologically driven atmosphere 
of the Seminary. I was glad to contribute my skills to the congregation by 
reading the Torah — the whole parashah — week after week, thereby saving 
the congregation what it had been paying an Orthodox student to walk all the 
way from Williamsburg to Cobble Hill every Saturday for this purpose. On 
Sabbaths, I shared the leading of the services with one or two other congre- 
gants, and on the High Holidays, I took over the role of the cantor, thereby 
saving the congregation another major budget item. 

Eventually I became the shuls part-time rabbi. This was a completely un- 
expected turn in my life, for although I was ordained, I had never intended 
to be a practicing rabbi. As it turned out, I learned a great deal from the ex- 
perience and derived great satisfaction from this new relationship with the 
congregation, which lasted three years. But while acting as rabbi, I did not 
give up being the High Holiday cantor. Each year, after delivering the sermon, 


I would retire to the rear of the synagogue to begin the Hin'ni, changing roles 
from rabbi to cantor, and a congregant would take over the traditional rabbis 
responsibilities until near the end of the service. About ten years after joining 
the shul, I moved away from the neighborhood and relocated in Manhattan, 
but I continued to return to Kane Street to be the High Holiday cantor, and 
do so to this day. 

Each of the functions I performed at Kane Street — even the role of ex- 
rabbi — suited me in one way or another, but the role of the cantor on the High 
Holidays was the fulfillment of an enormous nostalgic fantasy. Brith Sholom 
Community Center had long ago disbanded, and its decrepit schoolhouse 
building had been reduced to a weedy concrete lot littered with brick. But 
starting in 1975, when I began to serve as cantor at Kane Street, I could revive 
and relive my childhood memory of the old shul, this time not as a boy bored 
and awed and too ignorant of the old-timers' ways to follow the service, but as 
the central figure of the entire liturgical drama, as the reincarnation of Can- 
tor Pavalow himself. It was no trouble to recover the tunes I had learned as a 
choirboy, for I had been humming them to myself for two-and-a-half decades; 
within a few years, I had my friends and fellow congregants singing all of then 
with me, so that tunes and chants that had originated somewhere in Eastern 
Europe and had been transmitted to me in an obscure immigrants' synagogue 
in southwest Philadelphia became the traditional chants of a booming brown- 
stoners' synagogue in an up-and-coming Brooklyn neighborhood. 

True, I was not really a cantor, not having the vocal gifts or the musical 
knowledge to perform true cantorial music, nor did I have a tuning fork or 
crown-shaped, tasseled white satin headdress. But I was a pretty fair lay cantor, 
what is known in Hebrew as a ba'al t'fillah. My command of the traditional 
High Holiday chants was solid, I had a repertoire of appropriate tunes that 
the congregation could sing along with, and my knowledge of the liturgy and 
the liturgical poetry was authoritative, since these are among the subjects of 
my academic expertise that I teach to rabbinical and cantorial students at the 
Seminary. The shul provided me with a kitl, the traditional white gown worn 
by officiants on the High Holidays, and instead of a tuning fork, I acquired a 
pitch pipe, which is much easier to use. 

For several years, I led the services alone, singing both the cantor s chants 
and the choir s responses as best I could, and hoping that the congregation 
would eventually pick up the choir s responses and sing them along with me. 
To a great extent, this has been a success. All Kane Street regulars know, for 
example, the special tune for Adon Olam (the hymn that was once my audi- 
tion piece for Cantor Pavalow s choir) that we use on the High Holidays. This 


is a tune I have heard nowhere else; I learned it as a boy in the choir, and it 
definitely goes back to the old country, for an ancient and delightful congre- 
gant, Mr. Antonovsky, remembered it from his childhood in the Ukraine and 
even berated me for singing it incorrectly! (His memory was perfect; I had 
altered the tune intentionally because I thought it too repetitive and lengthy 
for modern use in its original form.) I doubt that the Kane Street regulars of 
my generation and their now-grown children have heard this tune anywhere 
else, and I feel sure that it gives them all a shiver of white-robed solemnity 
and nostalgia, as it does me, and that it will haunt them forever. 

The process of reconstructing my old shul's High Holiday services of my 
childhood reached its climax around 1978, when, together with some fellow 
congregants, I helped to organize a choir. I had a free hand, and would have 
liked to reproduce the old services exactly, but there was a limit to what I 
had absorbed at age eight and nine and, of that, to what I could remember. I 
lacked the musical training to devise the chords for the choir to hum against 
my chanting, and I was too busy with my career and with my young family 
to try to track down the set pieces we used to do. Of course, there was no 
thought of using boys for the high voices; my solos were given to women. 

One of the singers had a knowledge of basic musical composition; one day, 
I sat him down and sang for him the bits and snatches I could remember of 
the U-N'taneh Tokef— including, of course, my solo, k'vakarat ro'eh edro — or 
kevakoras royeh edroi, as I originally sang it — and he worked it up into a 
respectable choral piece that cannot be too different from the one that was 
once sung by Cantor Pavalow and his choir. It became one of the central items 
in our repertoire; we assigned my childhood solo to the soprano and even 
added a few new fancy scale passages for me to sing solo. 

I have now been the High Holiday cantor at the Kane Street Shul for over 
thirty years. A whole generation of Kane Street children, including my own, 
have grown up, gone away to college, and settled elsewhere, but eventually 
many of them show up at the High Holiday services, sometimes with wives 
and husbands. One such young couple recently showed up with a baby. They 
seek me out during Kiddush and tell me how they missed the music of our 
High Holiday services during the years since they left their parents' home, 
when they went to services elsewhere or didn't go at all, how happy it made 
them to be back and to hear the old tunes again. I am flattered, of course, 
when they tell me that they don't want to hear any other cantor on the High 
Holidays; but beyond that, it gratifies me to see them making their own 
nostalgia out of mine and so carrying it on into the next generation. At the 


Kane Street Shul I have built a monument of liturgy to my childhood, to my 
old shul, and to my grandparents' generation. 

Raymond P. Scheindlin teaches Medieval Hebrew Literature at the Jewish Theologi- 
cal Seminary of America in New York. He is the author of numerous books, including 
The Book of Job (W. W.Norton, 1998); Wine, Women, and Death: Medieval Hebrew 
Poems on the Good Life (Oxford University Press, 1999); The Gazelle: Medieval He- 
brew Poems on God, Israel, and the Soul (OUP, 1999); A Short History of the Jewish 
People (0 UP, 1 998); and most recently, The Song of the Distant Dove: Judah Halevis 
Pilgrimage (OUR 2007). This excerpt from "A High Holiday Memoir" is reprinted with 
permission from the editors ofKerem, where it appeared in the 2007-2008 issue. 


A " V-Ne'emar" Boy Remembers 
By Garrett Field 

The approach of Autumn always reminds me of my boyhood in Detroit, walk- 
ing through the cooler air to choir rehearsals at B nai Moshe in Oak Park, 
the Conservative congregation where my family belonged. The music that 
we practiced was so different from what we heard from Cantor Louis Klein 
the rest of the year that I could hardly wait to perform it from the elevated 
bimah with my fellow boy choristers, circled around the shulhan on which 
the Torah was read. We accompanied Cantor Klein proudly, our treble voices 
blending with the cello-like vibrance of his rich baritone. For over forty years 
he had served our shul; someone said he was the spiritual glue that kept B nai 
Moshe together. 

I didn't know it at the time but participating in the cantor s boys choir con- 
nected me to generations of m'shor'rim a century earlier, Eastern European 
boys who wandered from province to province with a cantor, singing for money 
and food. In his book 1988 Chosen Voices, ethnomusicologist Mark Slobin 
cites the 1942 memoir of Mikhl Gelbart, a composer and music critic. 

Every hazzan in every city in Eastern Europe had a permanent choir of 
m'shor'rim. The hazzan did not pay them any wages. They drew their 
support by going every Friday with a sealed collection box from door 
to door; by singing with him at weddings and circumcisions — and after 
they had sung a Mi SheBeirakh prayer on behalf of the bride s father and 
the grooms father, the choirboys circulated among the guests asking for 
"MiSheBeirakh money;" by spending the entire month of Elul prior to 
the High Holidays at the cemetery, waiting for people who came to visit 
graves — to sing for them the memorial prayer EilMolei Rahamim with a 
wailing melody and a special effort to elicit tears from the mourners— and 
then extending their hands for u Molei money;" by going from house to 
house with a lantern on Hanukkah asking for money; by putting out a 
collection plate in the vestibule of the synagogue just before Yom Kippur 
and other fast days. The hazzan didn't have to feed the choirboys either. 
They had "eating days"— rotating meals at local homes, like seminary 
students — if a day wasn't covered, the choirboy went hungry. 

The boy s choir I sang in did not travel from province to province, we sang 
at the same building each year. We sang for free and only met a few times a 
year for rehearsals and performances. We had a nickname: the "V'-Ne emar" 
boys, since our accompaniment of Cantor Klein consisted mainly of repeating 
the word V'-Ne'emar ("and it is said"). We did have an audition. But since the 
cantor also helped all of us with our Bar Mitzvah preparation and heard us 


sing at the Hillel Day School that was located at B nai Moshe, he presumably 
scouted out the kids who could sing, so it was not just a blind audition. Not 
many new kids were added each year and it was boys only. As for rehears- 
als, the group stood around the table on the bimah and each "V-Ne emar" 
boy would take a turn singing solos. We would practice the group melodies 
as well, with Cantor Klein banging his mini-pitchfork before each passage. 
Sometimes one boy would sing the solo, then the cantor would ask others to 
perform it. Although all the boys had sort of established which songs were 
"theirs," he liked hearing the different versions. Often the choir would be 
made up of siblings; it seemed like an exclusive group. 

As for his rehearsal technique, the cantor would sing a passage first, 
then ask us to repeat it. Younger members just learned the material on their 
own from listening to the older boys sing, so that when it was their turn to 
sing that particular solo, they were already familiar with it. At rehearsals the 
cantor would use his hand to conduct a little — to remind us to hit high notes 
or hold certain notes— but he never conducted during a service. He didn't 
smile much, be we could always tell when he thought we had done a good 

During the Yamim Nora'im we felt the prestige that came with being "V- 
Neemar" boys. We would hang out in the cantor s office for most of the day 
until being summoned to the bimah for our performances. Missing every part 
of the services except when we were needed made us feel very important. We 
each had our own tallit bag and mahzor and walked around like we owned 
the place. It felt like we were the stars of the service and everyone was waiting 
for the "V'-Ne emar" boys to take the "stage." 

On the bimah we faced a sea of Jewish faces, most of them expectant. We 
felt both excited and nervous. Afterwards, all the elderly people would come 
up and compliment us on our voices and want to talk to us... Whenever we 
came across another " V-Ne emar" boy and nodded or said hello, we always felt 
a kind of closeness to him, as though we had shared an important experience, 
that we had done something great and exciting and special and memorable. It 
was a kind of secret, proud comradeship. 

This reminiscence is the by-product of a course on "Jewish Musical Worlds" that 
Garrett Field took with Dr. Mark Slobin at Wesleyan University. He is currently 
completing work towards a Masters degree in ethnomusicology, a hands-on study 
of the music of the first Karnatak mandolinist and an exploration of late 20th-and 
21st-century change in South Indian instrumental Karnatak music. 


e ws \ : y 

Yearning for Compassion— Sol Ziiris Musical Machzor for 

Rosh HaShanah 

Cantors Assembly, NY, 2006, 301 pp. 

Reviewed by Jaclyn Chernett 

Cantor/composer Sol Zims aim in life is to promote and apply nusah ha- 
ffillah in ways that will enable congregations to participate joyfully and with 
devotion in prayer. To this end, he has spent years writing prolific amounts of 
music for every service and teaching his material to cantorial and rabbinical 
students as well as lay ba' alei ffillah. 

Back in the 1970s, Zim won awards in Israel for his Hasidic-style composi- 
tions, and many of them are still used regularly in synagogues across the world. 
Yet his music did not appeal to all tastes. Many felt it was too "happy-clappy" 
and therefore inappropriate for the formal expression they were used to in 
Jewish worship. When smaller, more intimate minyanim took root, congre- 
gants assumed an active part of the experience rather than remain a passive 
audience, even where their Hebrew reading levels might be very low. They 
found their voice through niggunim, spirited melodies— with or without 
words — that appealed to children as well as adults and encouraged them to 
sing in the synagogue with verve. 

Zims ideal has been always to retain traditional nusah with significant 
moments of hazzanut, alongside optional congregational singing of refrains 
and niggunim. As in Zims other anthologies, the Musical Machzor for Rosh 
Hashanah is structured to offer such choice. Traditional nusah is constant 
for each unit of prayer, followed by the option of several compositions set 
with interchangeable sections that offer hazzanut and Hasidic-style refrains 
for almost every text. If practitioners want to use this book as a guide to 
leading Rosh HaShanah services simply using the nusah sections alone, it is 
possible. Moreover, not only do they have access to the Ashkenazi tradition 
(Eastern European form) but they can root it in harmonic guidelines that 
appear above the staff even when davening a cappella, the norm for most 
traditional services. 


In the bulk of published hazzanic collections we are given a single line of 
music. Still, a tradition handed down orally for centuries leaves listeners with 
the memory of harmonic choral accompaniment. These ghost harmonies 
influence the authors of anthologies as well, according to the nuances of their 
remembered traditions. In this respect Zims suggested chord markings can 
be surprising (Example 1; a phrase from Mi Yanu ah U-Mi Yanu a, "Who shall 
rest and who shall be disturbed," p. 177). 

A> \ j F#° B*>m B°/D 



Mi ya - nu 

ya - nu - a, 

Example 1. Surprising harmonies for a phrase from Mi Yanu'ah U-Mi Yanu'a. 

Zims communal interludes go beyond the traditionally expected reitera- 
tions of introductory liturgical formulations such as U-V'khein ("And there- 
fore..."), adding a niggun that draws worshipers in while affording the hazzan 
a brief respite (Example 2; p. 203). 

Fni a dd9 




s§ r m l^ 



da da dai da dai dai dai 

dai dai dai dai dai dai 

C 7 

b''i>j. jirn 

C 7 BWC Fm h t 
rit. 7 J * 

dai dai dai dai dai dai dai dai dai rai 

rai L — J 

dai rai da. 

Example 2. Communal niggun to preface cantor's U-V'khein. 

Paramount in Zims (and indeed any serious baal t'fillah's) mind, is the 
rabbinic principle that music always enhances and underpins sacred text. 
Thus, as we would expect from the composer of the well-known setting, 
Avinu ShebaShamayim, Tsur Yisra'eil V'-Go'alo (Prayer for the State of Israel), 
this volume contains many lyrical and powerful gems that give promise of 
becoming equally popular. A prime example is the congregational anthem 
Hashiveinu, Adonai, Eilekha ("Return Us unto You, O God") sung as part of 
Uv'-Nukho Yomar ("And When the Ark of the Covenant Rested") at the Torah 
scrolls return to the Ark (Example 3; p. 136). Zim also uses this melody to 
open Sh'ma Koleinu ("Hear our Plea") within the Slihot service of his upcom- 
ing Yom Kippur volume. 



Gm Dm 7 


Dm 7 




"tJ ^ * 




Ha-shi-vei - nu, A-do - nai, ei - le-kha v' na - shu-vah, ei - le-kha v' na 
CmVE^Cm/F B^ Fm 6 /A^ A^°/B Cm 6 n Gm add9 Gm/F Cm 6 /E^Cm 

mei - nu, ya - mei - nu, ya - mei - nu k' - ke 

12. F 

Dm 7 Gm Cm/G Gm 

Dm 7 

\ Gm 

Example 3, Hashiveinu- communal anthem sung at the Torah Scroll's return to the Ark 
(and also as introduction to Sh'ma Koleinu in the S'lihot service). 

This anthology introduces textual variants that appear in recent High 
Holiday mahzorim used by the American Conservative, Reconstructionist 
and Reform movements, although it is equally appropriate for use by tradi- 
tional Orthodox congregations. Accentuation of Hebrew has been carefully 
cast to Modern Hebrew pronunciation, with deliberate occasional old-style 
Ashkenazi emphases in some of the Hasidic-style melodies. The book is a 
"must-have" for every ba'al t'fillah. 

There are several drawbacks: the leather-style hardback cover which looks 
good but is difficult to keep open on a piano; and some typographical nota- 
tion and word errors. It is to be hoped that on second printing these can be 

Jaclyn Chernett, who holds a Master of Philosophy in Music from City University 
and is an Associate of the London College of Music, is the first woman in the UK 
to be ordained as a hazzan—by the Academy for Jewish religion in Riverdale, New 
York. She is founder and director of the European Academy for Jewish Liturgy 
(EAJL), devoted to mentoring lay leaders of Jewish prayer. 


Excerpts of Moshe GanchofFs Recorded High Holiday 

Musique Internationale Cassettes: #575—Rosh Hashanah 1994, 
#576— YotnKippur 1996, #577—Ne , ilah, 1993. 
Reviewed by David B. Sislen 

So much of the music written for Yamim Nora'im consists of easily recogniz- 
able liturgical passages like Hin'ni, U-N'taneh Tokef, KolNidre, that complex 
settings for them are the ones we hear most often on recordings as well. It is 
easy to forget that the bulk of the services for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kip- 
pur is made up of more obscure liturgical material that is no less deserving 
of the hazzans full attention and skill In fact, some of the greatest hazzanim 
were renowned for their adept and sensitive handling of this liturgical mortar 
that holds the bricks of daven n together. 

While first-hand accounts of past masters who could move a congregation 
to tears with the simplest connective recitative still abound, the opportu- 
nity to actually hear stellar practitioners of this lost art nowadays is almost 
non-existent. Contemporary set pieces of hazzanut — with or without choral 
accompaniment— are engulfed by a sea of English readings, spontaneous 
sermonettes, shouted page numbers and regimented congregational singing 
that succeed only in impeding the flow of public prayer instead of helping to 
set its pace. Not subject to such distractions, these excerpted sections from 
three High Holiday services led by Cantor Moshe Ganchoff show us how it 
used to be done. 

Ganchoff (1905-1997) was a master zoger (literally, a "teller"), unmatched 
in his ability to bring the Siddur and Mahzor to life. Using a deep knowledge 
of nusah and liturgy, a keen musical mind and a tremendous improvisational 
talent to make the words of the service leap off the bimah into the hearts and 
minds of the congregation, his skill earned him the apt title of "The Cantors' 
Cantor." So said the many thousands of New Yorkers who heard him sing his 
original compositions during a weekly radio program on radio station WEVD. 
Thanks to a trio of recordings released by Barry Serota on the Musique In- 
ternationale label, it is now possible to hear Ganchoff s davening, recorded 
live during the Yamim Nora'im of 1961. 

As resident cantor for the High Holidays and Pesah at Grossinger s Resort 
near Ferndale, New York, Ganchoff led services there from 1957 until his 
retirement. Working with Ganchoff, Serota went through years of tapes that 
the Grossinger staff had made of events that took place on its stage, includ- 


ing religious services. For this series of recordings Serota culled sections of 
the liturgy from Musaf on the second day of Rosh HaShanah, Musaf of Yom 
Kippur, and Ne'ilah. Accompaniment was provided by the Samuel Sterner 

The recordings omit items that were performed solely by the choir, offer- 
ing either recitatives that were sung solo by the cantor, or with the choir in a 
supporting role. The result is often mesmerizing. In the Malkhuyot-Zikhro- 
not-Shofarot sections of the Musaf Amidah for Rosh HaShanah, for example, 
Ganchoff moves seamlessly through one prayer mode and hazzanic style after 
another, weaving them into a moving whole that never leaves interpretation 
of the words {peirush ha-milot) behind. The mood alternates between prayer 
and praise, minor and major, the vocal technique shifting from rapid-fire 
declamation to melismatic ornamentation, from intimate parlando to broad 
cantilena, and then on to the next thought without missing a beat. The more 
expressive sections are not presented as stand-alone arias, but rather as part 
of a whole, emphasized for purely liturgical reasons. 

In call-and-response passages with the congregation, such as Imru LEilo- 
him ("Say unto God") from Yom Kippur, he maintains a lightning-fast pace 
studded with melodic flourishes just long enough to vary the rhythm of the 
give-and-take, keeping it fresh and interesting. He does the same with L'-Eil 
Oreikh Din ("To God Who Sits in Judgement"; here included in Rosh Ha- 
Shanah Musaf), allowing each strophe to stand out as an individual, unique 
statement, rather than as just another verse in a litany. He begins V'-Khol 
Ma'aminim ("And All Believe") the same way, but then inserts a meditative 
interlude beginning with the line V'-Khol ma'arninim she-Hu tzaddik v'-ya- 
shar... ("And all believe that He is just and righteous . . ."). The choir establishes a 
rhythmic accompaniment as Ganchoff sings a melody (composed by Abraham 
Ellstein) that crescendos on the word u-ma'arikh ("Who is slow...") and cuts 
off dramatically at the word af("... to anger!"). 

Another musico-rhetorical device that catches the listeners attention and 
holds it fast occurs on the phrase Adam y'sodo mei-afar ("Man s origin is in 
dust") from the paragraph Ki K'-Shimkha ("Your Fame, like Your Name, Is 
Hallowed"). Ganchoff sings a two-octave descending chromatic scale on the 
opening line that perfectly symbolizes Mans return to dust. On Yom Kippur 
he sings a similar sequence on the words v'-sofo le-afar ("and his end is in 
dust"), and then at the bottom of his range, he dwells on the words to drive 
home the gravity of Man s ultimate fate. The Yom Kippur version also con- 
cludes with a delicate falsetto on the final words Vkha-halom ya-uf ("and as 


a dream, he flies away") that ends suddenly, dramatizing the frailty of our life 
and how quickly it can disappear. 

Knowledgeable listeners will appreciate the delicacy with which Ganchoff 
treats musical and interpretive ideas borrowed from other masters. In Ne'ilah, 
his Ezk'ra Elohim V'-Ehemaya ("Recalling This, O God, I Moan") opens with 
a gentle treatment of the first three stanzas, segues neatly into a powerful 
Y'-hi Ratson... Shornei'a Kol Bikhyot ("May it be Your Will... O Hearer of 
Weeping") and ends with a phrase from Zavel Kwartin s setting of the same 
passage. Kwartin is also quoted in the Eileh Ezk'ra ("These I Remember") from 
Yom Kippur Musaf, but in a different way. One gets the sense that Ganchoff 
is telling you the Martyrology story, rather than singing it. The music brings 
out every liturgical nuance, letting worshipers share the anguish of our Ten 
Martyred Sages in the 1 st and 2 nd centuries C.E. When Ganchoff arrives at 
Tiheir Rabi Yishrna'eil Atsmo ("Rabbi Ishmael Purified Himself"), he again 
echoes Kwartins phrases, but renders them with an air of uncertainty, as 
opposed to the original heroic version. His choice beautifully captures the 
sense of fear and dread that the character of Rabbi Ishmael feels at that point 
in the anonymously authored poetic narrative. 

Not every element in these three cassettes hits a home run. The choir, 
though well directed, suffers from occasional pitch problems. The unpre- 
dictability factor of live recording is evident throughout. Listen closely and 
you 11 hear an unexpected pause, a Hebrew error, a verse that is inadvertently 
repeated, a conversation from across the bimah that is unavoidably picked up 
by the microphone. These little glitches only add to the charm of the overall 
product, and remind us that we are listening to a real hazzan leading a real 
service. At one point, Ganchoff can be heard quietly humming to himself 
before modulating to a new key. At another, the choir comes in full voice and 
one hears a quick "Shh!" from someone, which is immediately heeded by the 
singers, who drop down to an instant Pianissimo. 

These recordings represent more than a lasting testimony to Ganchoff s 
artistry. They give us the chance to travel back in time and relive a Yamim 
Nora'irn experience that sadly, is no longer available to synagogue goers. 
Ganchoff imbued the traditional High Holiday liturgy with a full measure of 
hazzanut. This was not a service for show, or for the cantor to demonstrate his 
vocal abilities; it was a sensitive, well paced, artfully constructed and beauti- 
fully delivered whole. Yet it did not drag on. In an ironic twist, according to 
producer Barry Serota, the service needed to be completed by 1:00 pm in 
order for hotel guests to arrive at lunch on time (presumably, this limitation 
did not apply on Yom Kippur). 


The phenomenon of a completely sung service with all poetic insertions 
(piyyutim) included is not something commonly encountered in our era of 
shrinking liturgy. This set of recordings is therefore a valuable educational 
tool for today s cantors and congregants alike. True, much has changed since 
Moshe Ganchoff s heyday almost a half-century ago, including the fact that 
Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur were observed in a Catskill Mountain resort 
rather than a synagogue. The fact that after all these years, his voice and deft 
touch with liturgical Hebrew can remain so incredibly evocative is a testa- 
ment to the timelessness of Moshe Ganchoff s craft as a cantor and the depth 
of his devotion as an observant Jew. Thanks to Barry Serota and Musique 
Internationale, at least this one prayer experience will survive for posterity 
instead of becoming, like so many other live performances of a bygone era, 
k'-ru'ah noshavet, ukh'-avak porei'ahj v'kha-halom ya'uf ("like the wind that 
blows, like the dust that floats, and like the dream that vanishes"). 

David B. Sislen is the hazzan at Congregation B'nai Israel of St Petersburg Florida. 
He serves on the Membership Committee of the Cantors Assembly, and plays an 
essential role on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Synagogue Music. Barry 
Serota may be reached by phone at 847 259-7000, ext. 232. 

Meir Finkelstein's Orchestrated Ne'ilah Service 
Reviewed by Sheldon Levin 

From the haunting traditional motifs of the Hatsi Kaddish sung by cantor 
and choir, until the powerfully majestic repetitions oiAdonaiHu ha-Elohim 
at the conclusion, Meir Finkelstein has brought his brilliant personal touch 
to the final service of Yom Kippur. His memorable melodies, choice of con- 
temporary styles and harmonic creativity place these prayers securely within 
the 21 st century. 

I should begin by admitting that I am partial to Meir Finkelstein; Canadian 
Jewish choral conductor and arranger Stephen Glass calls him the "Mozart 
of our time." Finkelstein clearly speaks the musical languages of today. Some 
arrangements sound more like a film sound track than traditional synagogue 
settings of previous generations. He often quotes MiSinai tunes and traditional 
nusah, yet by changing the harmonies or adding new rhythms or instrumental 
accompaniment he breathes new life into these settings. 


The new Ne'ilah Service was commissioned by Cantor Chayim Frenkel and 
Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation of Pacific Palisades. The vocal 
score and CD of the instrumental parts alone are available from congrega- 
tion. As co-producer, Cantor Frenkel deserves a great deal of credit for the 
CD of the full service with soloists, cantors, chorus and instruments. In the 
past, Finkelstein and Frenkel have produced major new works in memory of 
the Holocaust and for victims of terror in Israel. Their 2-CD set of High Holy 
Day selections (both old and new) is also of the highest quality. 

In the recording of this new Ne'ilah Service they effectively use both 
male and female soloists including several fine cantors: Meir Finkelstein, 
Chayim Frenkel, Joseph Gole, Don Gurney and Nathan Lam. The variety of 
musical styles, different vocal timbres and inclusion of Finkelsteins wholly 
instrumental "Fantasy for Cello and Piano" as well as selected meditations 
and introductions by the congregation s rabbis keep the CD both interesting 
and moving. The sound is beautiful, and the synagogue s choir is also quite 
impressive. While some of the pieces are musically complex, most of them 
could be performed by a volunteer choir, especially if a few of the vocal parts 
were taken down an octave, as they are on this recording. 

I was most impressed by the Sh'ma Yisrael/Barukh Sheim/Adonai Ehad 
finale for cantor and chorus, replete with seventh chords, lots of surprising 
harmonies, a breath-taking modulation and a driving rhythm in the accompa- 
niment. In this single masterful setting, Finkelstein shows his skill for taking a 
simple melody and turning it into a work of art. Many of the pieces are in the 
slow, contemplative mode one would expect to hear in the final hours of the 
Yom Kippur fast. Hatsi Kaddish, Rahamana d'-Anei and Adonai Adonai are 
serious compositions and— except for some new harmonies and the keyboard 
accompaniment— could have been written by European cantorial masters of 
the past two centuries. P'tah Lanu Sha'ar is a fine example; while setting the 
text traditionally, it moves the service forward musically. 

Finkelstein does not limit himself to an entire service of "heavy" music. If 
V'-Al Kulam were sung in English, it could easily pass for a Pop hit. Enkat 
M'saldekha is in the style of a Zionist anthem and Sim Shalom/B'-Seifer 
Hayyim is reminiscent of Broadway musicals like LesMiz or Jekyll and Hyde. 
And I challenge anyone not to smile while a child and cantor sing an uplifting, 
spirited duet to the words o£L'-Dor va-Dor. 

As cantor of a congregation that does not use instruments on Shabbat or 
Yom Tov, this reviewer wonders whether the broad spectrum of Conserva- 
tive worshipers would miss opportunities to daven and participate in this 
service. Might they instead feel as if they were attending a concert? Perhaps 


in communities where instruments are used regularly and new music is eas- 
ily accepted, this would be a wonderful way to conclude Yom Kippur. I think 
that congregants who are used to a more traditional Ne'ilah service would 
find some of the settings jarring to their prayer experience. 

Having said that, I still wish that Finkelstein and Frenkel would apply the 
same magic they brought to Ne'ilah and works commemorating the Shoah 
and honoring the State of Israel, to the pre-Rosh Hashanah Slihot service. 
Conservative congregations are increasingly permitting the use of musical 
instruments at that service, which is not held on a holy day, and congregants 
are generally more open to a new and different experience at Slihot than they 
are during the Yamim Nora'irn proper. 

In sum, Meir Finkelsteins orchestrated Ne'ilah Service is brilliantly con- 
ceived and produced, and congregations that allow instruments and welcome 
new compositions will be enthralled by it. 

Sheldon Levin is a past president of the Cantors Assembly, and has served as cantor 
and educational director for congregations in Philadelphia, PA and Metuchen, New 
Jersey for over thirty years. He has edited seven books on Jewish music and education, 
conducts several choirs and has taught at Conservative day schools, Ramah summer 
camps and the National Jewish Choral Festival 

A Fusion of Traditions — Liturgical Music in the 
Copenhagen Synagogue, by Jane Mink Rossen and 
Uri Sharvit 

Reviewed by Charles Heller 

This volume, published by the University Press of Southern Denmark, 2006, 
is part of an academic series on the folk music of Denmark, which explains 
its scope and methodology. It gives a picture of the music of the Copenhagen 
Synagogue through an analysis of two representative services (Rosh HaShanah 
and Simhat Torah— with an accompanying CD and detailed music transcrip- 
tions) as well as a history of the Danish Jewish community and a history and 
photos of Danish cantors and choirs. In order to be a comprehensive survey of 
Jewish music, the book also includes a detailed analysis of Shofar calls and of 
Torah reading. Unfortunately, this will probably prove baffling for non- Jewish 


musicologists and tedious for the Jewish ones, although there is an interesting 
discussion on the expressive nature of Western Ashkenazi trop. 

There are many musical gems described in this book which will be of in- 
terest to lovers of western European nusah: a prayer for the Royal Family, a 
tuneful setting oiHalleluyah (Psalm 150), a simple tune for An'irn Zemirot, 
and two pieces from Simhat Torah— the Hatsi Kaddish and an abridged ver- 
sion of An'irn Zemirot which runs through the leitmotifs of the whole year 
in the manner of a Yahres-Kaddish — the Kaddish Shaleim sung at Maariv of 
Simhat Torah in the Western Ashkenazic tradition. 

The problem however is that publication by a university press has made the 
authors overly academic in their presentation, so that the music examples are 
presented as ethnomusicological specimens: they are full of all the irregular 
note lengths, bar lengths, pitches, etc. that the performers actually sang. If 
you wanted to teach these melodies to your own shul choir you would have 
to rewrite them. Even so, the transcriptions are not completely reliable: for 
example, the ending of the Mei-R'shut for the Hatan Torah (ex. 11: 11) is 
obviously meant to sound like the one for the Hatan B reishit (ex. 12: 15), 
but the rather flat top F in ex. 11: 11 has been transcribed as E, which throws 
a whole different light on the nature of the mode. This is always the danger 
in ethnomusicological transcription: was the music itself poorly performed 
rather than being a worthwhile model? 

The authors have presented their work around a central thesis, that the 
Copenhagen nusah is the result of a fusion of many traditions from different 
communities — hence the title of this volume. This idea is indeed valuable, 
but it might have been preferable to focus on a few key examples rather than 
burying this idea in a mass of minute details more suitable for a dissertation. 
This fusion is the by-product of historical changes that are comprehensively 
described. The cross-connections between different communities have given 
rise to what the authors call a "national music" of European Jewry. In this 
book there are some Copenhagen melodies that will be familiar to people in 
Britain and elsewhere, for example, the "long tune" for Priestly Dukhen'n, the 
Ashrei following Shofar blowing, and the An'irn Zemirot for Simhat Torah. 
A very important side-story described in this book is the role of the Danish 
government in dictating the content of services. This has affected the devel- 
opment of Reform services and the reaction of the Orthodox, a process that 
has had parallels in other European countries. 

Students of nusah owe a tremendous debt to the late Chief Rabbi Marcus 
Melchior for permitting archival recordings to be made during services in 


the 1960s, and to the University Press of Southern Denmark for publishing 
this valuable record of authentic European nusah. 

A frequent contributor to the Journal, Charles Heller recently completed 30 years 
as Choir Director at Beth Emeth Synagogue, Toronto. His most recent publication 
is What To Listen For in Jewish Music (Toronto: Ecanthus Press, 2006 www.ecan- 



(1) Emanuel Rubin and John H. Baron's Music in Jewish 
History and Culture, 

Harmonie Park Press, Sterling Heights, Michigan, 2006, 405 pp. 
Reviewed by Jack Chomsky 

This survey of sources, content and trends in Jewish music is designed, accord- 
ing to its authors, as "both a college text and an informative guide for the lay 
reader" The authors are professors at University of Massachusetts, Amherst 
(Dr. Rubin — Judaic Studies and Music History) and Tulane University (Dr. 
Baron — Music). 

After an Introduction and the inevitable Prelude, "What Is Jewish Music?" 
Professors Rubin and Baron lay out 15 chapters under the following head- 

Background and Orientation 

Music in the Bible 

The Greco-Roman World 


Jewish Music in the World of Medieval Islam 

Secular Music of the Jews in Christian Europe in the Middle Ages 

Synagogue Music from the Destruction of the Temple to 1800 

The Cantor of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries 

Music of the Yiddish-Speaking World in the 19th and 20th Centuries 

Secular Jewish Musicians of Modern Europe 

The History and Development of Jewish Liturgical Music in America 

Secular Jewish Music and Musicians in North America 

Music of the Holocaust 

Creation of a National Music Prior to Israeli Statehood 

Music in Modern Israel 

In addition to a Postlude — What We Have Seen — the authors include a 
number of Historical Interludes in between chapters: "The Great Diaspora," 
"The Haskalah," and "Trauma and Triumph in the Middle Twentieth Century." 
A complete Bibliography follows, but the handy Suggestions for Further Read- 
ing that appear after every chapter are more likely to prove of sustained use 
to cantors and others who study and transmit Jewish traditions. 

Readers of this journal will be particularly interested to discover what the 
authors have to say about hazzanim while singling out the ones they consider 


to have been leading trend setters. In that respect, I found myself taking a 
certain amount of pride in the authors' acknowledgements of gratitude to 
the late Cantor Mordecai Heiser (Pittsburgh), Cantors Saul Altschuler (Mil- 
waukee) and Alex Zimmer (Boston) along with others of my acquaintance, 
in helping them shape their appreciation and understanding of the nature 
and importance of Jewish music. 

One is struck by the sense that the authors are insiders writing about 
Jewish music and culture from a deep and personal understanding, so when 
they describe what happens in the synagogue, they are able to place things 
in their proper context. For example, they advise newcomers that while most 
synagogues welcome visitors, it would be wise not to drop in without advance 
notice during the High Holy Days, as seats are not readily available on those 
days. They caution potential visitors about the average length of services on 
other occasions — ninety minutes to three hours on Saturday mornings — de- 
pending on the congregations denomination. Their initial description of the 
role of the "chazzan" is worth citing verbatim (p. 13). 

A large urban congregation will usually engage a full-time chazzan, a 
singer employed as cantor, or leader of the service, whose role is probably 
better understood from the Hebrew name for the position: shaliach 
tzibbur (representative of the public) — that is, one who "represents" the 
congregation with his/her own voice in prayer. This personage is also 
hired by the congregation and is of more specific interest here because 
the position encompasses everything that might touch on religious music. 
The chazzan is usually a professionally trained singer chosen for his/her 
piety, knowledge of the service, and musical ability. The job description 
calls for leading the singing of traditional melodies and/or composing new 
melodies for worship, teaching all aspects of music (e.g., hymns, prayer 
melodies, cantillation), chanting the special prayers for wedding, funerals, 
and appropriate public occasions, being responsible for the organization 
and performance of subsidiary worship music, such as that performed by 
the organist, choir, a soloist, etc., overseeing the music curriculum of the 
synagogue school, and being knowledgeable about all aspects of Jewish 
music — that is, sufficiently acquainted with music theory, history, and 
performance to function as the synagogue s respected liaison with the 
professional musical community. The ideal chazzan is supposed to be 
a devoutly religious person with a glorious voice, a skilled professional 
musician with the patience to teach young children, a diplomat, conductor, 
composer, and to top it all off, a tireless performer who can sing the 
equivalent of full operatic performances on each of the High Holy Days in 
quick succession (on Yom Kippur that is the equivalent of several operas 


in twenty-four hours without food or water). This is not a job for the weak 
of body or spirit. 

The chapter on Cantillation is accessible even to the non-Torah reader and 
consistent with actual practice, although I found a figure on page 78 (Fig. 4.4) 
to be confusing. As a demonstration of the way te'amim (the word preferred 
by the authors because of the potential confusion inherent in using the word 
"accents") deliver the flow of words in a sentence, the Hebrew text is given 
in transliteration, reading left to right, while the trope signs are unchanged, 
reading right to left. (One might conceivably use te'amim with English trans- 
literation, but reverse the signs so they also read from left to right.) In any 
event, one would hardly use this book to teach cantillation — but rather, to 
teach a little about cantillation. 

While on the subject of cantillation, I did notice a reference in the bibli- 
ography to Suzanne Haik-Vantouras The Music of the Bible Revealed: The 
Deciphering of a Millennary Notation, yet I found no evidence of her claims 
in Rubin and Baron s book. Of greater concern is the fact that I have found 
her supposed discoveries to be entirely suspect. What I saw and heard from 
Haik-Vantoura seemed to represent the speculations of an outsider who 
hasn't a clue about the way Jewish biblical texts have been rendered and 
understood in diverse communities for centuries. It's not that one must be 
Jewish to understand the nature of cantillation, simply that if you wish to 
promulgate theories that concern historical performance, you had better 
know something about a universal current practice that is common to Jewish 
communities everywhere. For this, an intimate knowledge of Biblical Hebrew 
would be indispensable. 

The book's greatest use to Journal of Synagogue Music readers might be 
as a reliable source of scholarship and history in areas peripheral to their 
own expertise. Thus in a section entitled Music as a Jewish Profession in the 
chapter "Secular Music of the Jews in Christian Europe," we visit the ways 
in which Jews were part of the fabric of the music of 15 th -century Germany. 
The story of the Lochamer Liederbuch ("Locheim Songbook," pp. 115-116) 
typifies many epochs in which Jewish musicians were deeply engaged at the 
heart of a nations culture. This fact has unfortunately been denied or at least 
obscured by later generations. 

Appropriate attention is paid to significant Jewish composers, particularly 
the Viennese cantor, Salomon Sulzer (1804-1890), whose artistry flourished 
despite the limitations necessarily placed on music expressly written for use 
in the synagogue. Also of interest — though misinformed — is the information 
that the "Leoni" melody for the hymn Yigdal, one of the few synagogue tunes 


found in Christian hymnals (as "The God of Abraham Praise") is so named 
because it was composed by Meyer Lyon (ca. 1755-1797), cantor of the Great 
Synagogue of London (pp. 148-149). 

Leoni s melody was given a larger audience by Wesleyan cleric Thomas 
Olivers (1725-99), who heard the chazzan sing it, and liked the song so 
much that he set English words to it as the hymn, "The God of Abraham 
Praise" . . The melody became so well known in eighteenth-century London 
that it soon popped up as a soldiers' drinking song with an entirely different 
text: "Now pass the glass around." 

Lyon actually served as the Great Synagogue s leading chorister, while Isaac 
Polack was its cantor from 1746 to 1802, the longest-tenured hazzan in An- 
glo-Jewish history. 1 

The authors' description of music s evolution in the 19 th -century European 
synagogue is both thorough and impressive. Their accounts of the careers 
and repertoire of figures like Chayim Wasserzug, Nissen Blumenthal, Moritz 
Friedmann, Josef Singer and many others whet one s appetite to see more of 
the manuscripts— perhaps in the form of future uploads to the Internet. 

The wealth of sources and analysis of the importance of Yiddish songs in 
the chapter "Music of the Yiddish-Speaking World in the Nineteenth and 
Twentieth Centuries" is also laudable— presenting a great deal of material 
from a variety of contexts in a concise and coherent way. Several elements of 
this chapter are worthy of books on their own — some have indeed been the 
subjects of book-length studies and are listed in the various Suggestions for 
Further Reading: YL. Cahans Yiddish Folksongs with Melodies, Neil Levins 
Songs of the American Jewish Experience, Henry Sapozniks Klezmer! Jew- 
ish Music from Old World to Our World, to mention a few. It is rare to find 
a description of the variety of Yiddish music as comprehensive as the one 
found here. 

One peculiarity of the book is a certain redundancy. Chapter 8, "The Can- 
tor of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries," overlaps considerably with 
Chapter 11, "The History and Development of Jewish Liturgical Music in 
America," which covers the 18 th to 21 st centuries. Nevertheless, the opportu- 
nity to traverse related areas twice — initially through focus on the individu- 
als who transmitted the tradition, and then through focus on the tradition 
itself— helps to fill out the total picture. 

1 Daniel Tunkel, "Music of the Anglo-Jewish Synagogue Tradition," unpublished 
Notes to Accompany a Workshop Session, 18 th Annual North American Jewish Choral 
Festival, Hudson Valley Resort, Kerhonkson, NY, July 8-12, 2007, p. 2. 


I highly recommend Music in Jewish History and Culture as a valuable ref- 
erence for quick overview and as an authoritative text for in-depth study. 

Jack Chomsky has served as hazzan at Congregation Tifereth Israel in Columbus, 
Ohio, since 1982. He edited the Journal of Synagogue Music from 1988 to 1994, co- 
edited the 50th Anniversary Jubilee Journal of the Cantors Assembly with Solomon 
Mendelson in 1998, and is the Assembly's current Vice-President 

(2) Charles Heller's What to Listen For In Jewish Music, 

Toronto, Ecanthus Press, 2006, 298 pp. 
Reviewed by Robert S. Scherr 

Charles Heller, composer, arranger, musicologist, and conductor, has been a 
major personality in Jewish music for many years. Wouldn't it be wonderful 
if we could sit in Heller s living room and get him to unpack his expertise on 
this vast subject! Next-best, perhaps, is to leaf through this new book of his. 
Informal and accessible, it discusses a number of important themes ranging 
from folk influences on prayer chant and biblical cantillation to the musical 
poetry of Psalms and the professional role of the cantor. Readers will find 
personal musings and explanations interwoven throughout with scholarly 
delving into what lies beneath the surface. 

Since he is writing about "Jewish Music," Heller must first define what he 
means by that term, a confusing appellation that many have tried unsuccess- 
fully to define. He refers to Eric Werner (A Voice Still Heard), who felt that the 
question what is Jewish music? is "eternally silly." He cites Abraham Idelsohn s 
phrase, "spiritual nationality" as a useful way to establish that Jewish music 
reflects the cultures in which Jews lived. Heller concludes that Jewish music 
is "preserved by Jews for a Jewish purpose... music created by Jews... music 
uniquely developed by Jews" (p. 33). 

Anyone engaged in teaching general classes on the subject might benefit 
from Heller s approach to explaining basic nusah — the prescribed modalities 
for sacred chant throughout the year. He does well to point out how in other 
religious traditions as well, the formulae of liturgy recitative are a matter of 
both melody and text, in response to a variety of occasions (p. 180). 


"Jewish music has always been perceived as being exotic and colorful," Heller 
says (p. 76). He reminds us that colorful means chromatic, and suggests that 
such wild music as the Middle-Eastern modes of Jewish synagogue and folk 
traditions (or jazz, for that matter) exist on the margins of the larger society. 
Even in the 3rd century, he points out, Clement of Alexandria warned early 

not to expose oneself to the powerful influence of exciting and langorous 
modes, which by the curve of their melodies lead to effeminacy and 
infirmity of purpose. Let us leave chromatic harmonies to banquets where 
no one ever blushes at music crowned with flowers and harlotry. 2 

Heller suggests that in the Middle Ages, Jewish musicians were admired 
for performing music that incorporated the unusual chromatic scales. In 
19 th -century England, John Braham and Isaac Nathan arranged a series of 
synagogue tunes {Hebrew Melodies) in the contemporary style, with lyrics 
especially written for them by Lord Byron. Nathan referred to his melodies 
as possessing "a certain wildness," which appealed to those who sought the 
exotic in Jewish music. Twentieth-century American songwriter Cole Porter 
once told composer Richard Rogers that his most successful numbers, with 
constant chromatic shifting from major to minor, were "Jewish tunes." 3 

Heller s section on "Close-ups" focuses on Hatikvah (and its relationship 
to well-known folk melodies), KolNidre (comparing how it is sung in various 
communities), musical settings of the Kaddish, and the ever-popular Hava 
Nagila. His sections on the influence of folk and popular traditions include 
Klezmer, Yiddish, and Ladino contributions to the treasury of Jewish mu- 

He includes an extensive Bibliography, Glossary, and Index. One might 
wish that there were also a Discography, though Heller suggests that so much 
music is being recorded that any such listing would immediately become dated. 
Endnotes appear after each chapter, but they would have proven more helpful 
had they been numbered for better reference. The writing s lightness of tone 
and sparkling wit will appeal to a wide audience, including those possessing 
the most basic level of musical knowledge. Yet this reader was left feeling that 
certain areas deserved a more rigorous treatment, namely, the historical de- 
velopment of synagogue and folk music, and how the Jew ishness of our music 
has contended with outside influences. Nonetheless, Heller s informed guid- 

2 Quoted in Stevens and Robertson, The Pelican History of Music, Vol 1. 

3 Alexander Chancellor, in a New York Times Book Review article from November 
29, 1998 on William McBriens Cole Porter. 


ance through the byways of Jewish music should provide a fulfilling journey 
for those who love to read about this ever-provocative subject. 

Robert S. Scherr is Hazzan Emeritus of Temple Israel in Natick, Massachusetts. He 
currently serves as the Jewish Chaplain for Williams College, in Williamstown, Mas- 
sachusetts, and as Chair of Placement and Human Resources for the Cantors Assembly. 
His review, Zamru Lo — The Next Generation, edited by Jeffrey Shiovitz, appeared 
in the 200S Journal of Synagogue Music. 




Six High Holiday Settings by Israeli Composers— at Israel's 

L Shomeir Yisra'eil 

Yehudah Leib Glantz after Chasidim B'rinah (recorded 1947) 

Text: Slihot Liturgy 

and Rinat HaKodesh (published 1965) 

1. Sho - meir Yis-ra-eil sh'-mor, sh' - mor sh' ei-rit Yis-ra - eil, sh'-ei- 

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do-nai e 

had. 3. Sho - meir goika-dosh sh'-mor sh' -ei-rit am ka-dosh v' alyo 


shim b' -sha - losh k' -du -shot 


Text: High Holiday Musaf Liturgy 

Kalonymus ben Meshullam, 1 1th Cent. 

II. Uv'-Shofar Gadol Yi-Taka 

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HI. U-Kh'tov L'-Hayyim-V'Khol Ha-Hayyim 

Text: Amidah for the Ten Days of Penitence 

Published by OR-TAV Music Publications 

Music: after Dudu Shani 
Copyright © by the author 

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from Dudu Shanu, Mul Chalon Beteinu, collected pieces, 
OR-TAV Music Publications, 2006. 


IV. Ya'aleh 

Text: Kol Nidre Night Liturgy 

Music: M. Baharav 

{B'-ArvotHaNegev, 1948) 

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Published by OR-TAV Music Publications 

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Text: Neilah Liturgy 

Music: Benjamin Maissner 
Arrangement: Yefim Adler, 1995 

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Vols. 7, 8, 9 

Synagogal Music in 
the Baroque, $20 each 


The Music of the 
Mountain Jews, $20 

Tradition in the Land 
of Israel, $20 

Vol. 14 Italian Jewish 
Musical Traditions from the 
Leo Levi Collection, $20 

Vol. 16 Western Sephardi 
Liturgical Tradition as 
Sung by Abraham Lopes 
Cardozo, $20 

Vol. 17TheHasidic 

Hasidim, (2 CDs) $30 

NEW (2006) 



Oh. Lovely 
Jl Parrot! . 


NEW (2007) 

Vol. 18 Oh Lovely Parrot! 
Women's Songs from 
Kerala, India, $20 

Vol. 19 With Song They 
Respond - The Diwan of 
the Jews of Central Yemen 
(2 CDs) $30 

Vol. 20 A Song of Dawn 
The Jerusalem Sephardi 
Baqqashot, Mt. Zion 
Synagogue (6 CDs) $40 

Special 25% discount to members of Cantors' Assembly 

For additional CDs and JMRC publications in the Yuval Series: Studies, Monographs 

and Music Series, visit the JMRC website at: 

or contact: e-mail: 


^;ournal f /=^ymgogue-Musi££ 

Our Fall 2009 issue will feature 

Niggunim in Worship 

with articles that examine what has happened to synagogue practice in the 
50 years since Shlomo Carlebachs maiden album inaugurated the current 
neo-Hasidic revival. 

Some of the areas covered: 

♦ Music as a spiritual process in Rav Nahman's teaching 

♦ Liturgical after-effects of the Hasidic Song Festivals 

♦ The Glantz /Pinchik conundrum 

♦ Mesiras Nefesh: dancing in the face of death 

♦ The nature of Hasidic prayer 

♦ Hasidism in Jazz 

♦ Hasidim and Misnagdim: Vilna between the wars 

♦ The musical world of Shin An-Sky 

The Journal of Synagogue Music no longer charges for subscriptions. Its 
raison d etre has always been to elevate Jewish musical standards and to aid 
cantors as well as interested readers in this endeavor. By eliminating the cost 
factor, the Cantors Assembly hopes to put this scholarly publication into more 
hands individually, and collectively via institutional libraries. 

Please send requests for the current Journal, multiple copies, or back issues 
or notifications of address changes to CAofficesnyder(a)aoLcom or FAX 
to 212-662-8989 or phone 212-678-8834 or mail to Cantor Eric Snyder, 3080, 
Broadway, New York, NY 10027.